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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Four Classic Albums Plus

Avid AMSC 979



1. Lover
2. Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man
3. The Lady is a Tramp
4. Angel Face
5. Sometimes I'm Happy
6. What's New
7. Wonder Why
8. My Funny Valentine
9. Moonray
10. The Nearness of You
11. Stonewall
12. I Should Care
13. Misterioso
14. Epistrophy
15. I Mean You

1. Strollin'
2. Sonor
3. Blue's Mood
4. Skoot
5. Telefunken Blues
6. Klook's Nook
7. Baggin' the Blues
8. Inhibitions
9. Plenty, Plenty Soul
10. Boogity, Boogity
11. Heartstrings
12. Sermonette
13. The Spirit-Feel
14. Ignunt Oil
15. Blues at Twilight 

Milt Jackson, at the time of these mid 50's recordings, had reinvented the vibraphone as a jazz voice, and had become the most influential vibist amongst his peers. As a member of the Modern Jazz Quartet, with its chamber music compositional style, certain constraints were necessarily imposed on Jackson's playing freedom. These sessions, away from the MJQ, and where for the most part he was the leader, provided Jackson with the opportunity to establish a more spontaneous, swinging environment for him and all the participating musicians.

On CD ONE, the album, The Jazz Skyline, reunites Milt Jackson and Lucky Thompson, who played their first professional gig together in Detroit when they were just teenagers. Thompson's exuberant, energetic style fits right in with Jackson's sense of swing. These attributes are shown to their best effect on Lover and The Lady is a Tramp. Another Michigan native, Hank Jones, piano, is also featured on the album and contributes an original piece Angel Face. Jones, who is currently in his early 90s, is a jazz marvel, and his playing has always been fresh and undated.

The second album on this CD is Milt Jackson Quartet which is really the MJQ personnel, but with Horace Silver on piano rather than John Lewis. But the difference is noticeable. Pay particular attention to the arrangement and Silver's playing on My Funny Valentine as well as on Jackson's original blues piece Stonewall. Finally there are three short pieces from the album Thelonious Monk Quartet which was recorded in 1948 long before Jackson had established himself as a leading vibist. The tunes are all well known Monk originals with the attendant interesting chord changes and harmonics.

CD TWO leads off with the album Telefunken Blues, which is really a Kenny Clarke session with two different groups on separate recording dates showcasing Milt Jackson on vibes with one group and on piano with the other. Kenny Clarke was one of the original members of the MJQ and thus knew Jackson well. He was a bop trailblazer and the father of modern jazz drumming. On the first four tunes, Strollin', Sonor, Blue's Mood and Skoot, Jackson is teamed up with three West Coast boppers: Frank Morgan alto sax, Walter Benton tenor sax and Gerald Wiggins piano. They tear through these previously mentioned tunes with spirited solos and strong ensemble playing. On the subsequent four tunes, Telefunken Blues, Klook's Nook, Baggin' the Blues and Inhibitions, Jackson is joined by four members of Count Basie's band: Henry Coker trombone, Frank Wess tenor sax and flute, Charlie Fowlkes baritone sax and Eddie Jones bass. Since these four compositions and arrangements are by Ernie Wilkins, we are treated to an amalgam of bop and Basie style swing.

The final part of CD TWO contains the album Milt Jackson: Plenty, Plenty Soul. Once again, there are two distinct groups and recording dates. The first is a nonet session, comprising Plenty, Plenty Soul, Boogity Boogity and Heartstrings all of which are enlivened by the alto playing of Cannonball Adderley, although for contractual reasons he is listed in the liner notes as Ronnie Peters. In the second session, Jackson leads a sextet which once again has some excellent playing by Lucky Thompson tenor sax and Horace Silver piano.

Finally Avid has done an excellent job with the sound on these digitally remastered albums. For anyone who is interested in listening to the epitome of bop-infused bluesy vibes playing, Milt Jackson is the man.

Pierre Giroux

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