MILTJACKSON: BIG BAGS
Arranged and conducted by Tadd Dameron (*) and Ernie Wilkins
MILT JACKSON, vibraharp, with –
On Old Devil Moon, You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To, Later Than You Think:
Clark Terry (tp) Nat Adderley (tp) Bernie Glow (tp) Ernie Royal (tp) Jimmy Cleveland (tb) Melba Liston (tb) Paul Faulise (tb) Jerome Richardson (as) George Forsey (as) James Moody (ts, fl) Arthur Clarke (brs) Hank Jones (p) Ron Carter (b) Philly Joe Jones (drs)
On ‘Round Midnight, If You Could See Me Now, The Dream Is You: Clark Terry (tp) Doc Severenson (tp) Dave Burns (tp) Jimmy Cleveland (tb) Melba Liston (tb) Willie Ruff (frh) James Moody (as, fl) George Dorsey (as, fl) Jerome Richardson (ts, fl) Jimmy Heath (ts) Tate Houston (brs) Hank Jones (p) Ron Carter (b) Connie Kay (drs)
Other four selections: Clark Terry (tp) Ernie Royal (tp) Snooky Young (tp) Tim McIntosh (tb) Melba Liston (tb) Willie Ruff (frh) Earl Warren replaces Dorsey, other saxophones and piano, bass and drums same as just above.
1. Old Devil Moon (3:06) (Harburg – Lane)
2. ‘Round Midnight(6:46) (*) Thelonious Monk)
3. The Dream Is You (3:08) (*) (Tadd Dameron)
4. You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To (2:59) (Cole Porter)
5. Echoes (4:30) (*) (milt Jackson)
1. If You Could See Me Now (5:15) (*) (Tadd Dameron)
2. Star Eyes (3:21) (Raye – DePaul)
3. Namesake (3:19) (Milt Jackson)
4. If I Should Lose You (3:32) (*) (Rainger – Robin)
5. Later Than You Think (4:49) (Ernie Wilkins)
It is difficult to think of a musical setting that would not be appropriate for the star of this album. For Milt Jackson, who plays an unusual, not universally admired instrument in a highly personal way, has the ability to fit in anywhere and still retain his individuality. He has recorded successfully not only with his regular unit, the Modern Jazz Quartet, but also – to take what is only a partial list – with Thelonious Monk, Wes Montgomery, Ray Charles, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson, a string orchestra, and a symphony orchestra. How many men on any instrument could do that?
This supreme adaptability has possibly contributed almost as greatly as his superlative musicianship to Jackson’s success as a recording artist. Many musicians have commented on Jackson’s rare ability to remain himself while still fitting with instinctive accuracy into whatever the context of the moment happens to be.
On this album, the point is proven ten more highly enjoyable times. The vibraharp (Lionel Hampton, Red Norvo and Terry Gibbs notwithstanding) is far from the most likely choice to carry the solo – and frequently the main melody-line – burden in a big jazz band, but Jackson’s playing makes it seem the most natural thing in the world.
To be more precise, we should refer to tow big jazz bands, for the arrangement is all-important in an enterprise such as this, and the two arrangers here use quite dissimilar approaches. First take Tadd Dameron, now firmly back on the jazz scene. Largely as a result of two Riverside albums, one a set of scores for trumpet Blue Mitchell and the other his own “The Magic Touch” (RLP 419), Dameron is now enjoying a highly constructive renaissance, arranging for a variety of musicians and adding to the valuable stockpile of original music in his piano bench. Appropriately, the ballad arrangements here are Tadd’s. Like Jackson, Dameron is a romantic. In a period in jazz when it often seems that the only unrepressed emotion expressed by a musician is anger, we are fortunate to have two innately gentle people like Bags and Tadd. To repeat a truism for perhaps the thousandth time, Jackson is one of the finest ballad players in jazz. And Dameron, with his massed-sound, Ellington-extended romanticism, is one of the finest arrangers of ballads. Note, for example, the lovely interludes and introduction he supplies for the sax section led by James Moody in what must be described as a classic treatment of Thelonious Monk’s classic ‘Round Midnight. WE are also fortunate to have the opportunity to hear Jackson at work with the composer on Dameron’s most famous composition, If You Could See Me Now. Each man has written a new piece for this occasion. Dameron’s The Dream I You, another example of his gifts as a melodist, has a typical shyly charming entrance by Jackson. Bags himself is a melodist of considerable stature, as witness his Echoes. Apparently, Jackson does not spend too much time on composition, but one hopes that he will get to do more, for effortless, inevitable melodies seem to come from his whenever he does take the time to commit them to paper. This piece is one of his most immediately affecting.
Contrasting – but certainly not clashing with – the work of Dameron is that of the other arranger on this set, Ernie Wilkins, one of the foremost current standard-bearers of the Count Basie tradition of big-band writing. (It was he, as much as anyone else, who accomplished the renovation of that band that took place in the 1950s.) The swingers on this album, logically enough, are Wilkins’ province, and they provide a solid basis for expressing the more aggressive side of Bags’s musical personality.
Wilkins has left some space for soloists other than Jackson. On Star Eyes, the cornet is Nat Adderley, and the trombone Jimmy Cleveland. The Monkish piano opening on Namesake is by Hank Jones, and the aerial trumpet is Ernie Royal. The latter tune is Jackson’s – comparing it with Echoes indicates that he is just as versatile a composer as he is a soloist. Later Than You Think is the work of Wilkins and its tenor solos are by, respectively, Moody and Jimmy Heath.
These remarks have made little mention of the personnel, for the very good reasons that this notable cast truly needs no introduction and that their skill in support of Jackson and the arrangers is everywhere evident on the album, and speaks for itself.
Nor has much been said about the playing of Milt Jackson on his latest album. So much has been written about his unsurpassed style, some of it all again. Jackson, of course, varies in power and expressiveness, as does everyone. But in his case, the variation is always somewhere between very good and superb. There are few other musicians, and no other vibraphonists, of whom that can be said.
- JOE GOLDBERG
Jackson can also be herd on Riverside on –
Bags Meets Wes: Milt Jackson and Wes Montgomery (RLP 407; Stereo 9407)
Things Are Getting Better: Cannonball Adderley; with Milt Jackson (RLP 286; Stereo 1128)
Produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER
Recorded at Plaza Sound Studios; New York City
Album design: KEN DEARDOFF
Back-liner photos by STEVE SCHAPIRO
This recording is available in both Stereophonic (RLP 9429) and Monaural (RLP 429) form.
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street, New York City 36, New York