As the group's vibraphonist and principle soloist, Milt Jackson is the man who puts the blues into the MJQ. In addition to his MJQ membership and alternate career as a bandleader and soloist, Milt Jackson remains the springboard from which all modern jazz vibists originate. In this show we learn how Jackson developed his signature sound and went on to be the greatest vibraphonist of his generation.
Born on New Years Day, 1923 in Detroit, Michigan, Milt Jackson started performing at the age of seven as part of a singing gospel duet with his eldest brother. He later took up the piano. Deeply rooted in gospel and the blues, he was inspired to play jazz by the great swing bands that frequented Detroit's legendary Greystone Ballroom. He saw such ensembles as the Ellington, Basie and Lunceford bands, but it was hearing Lionel Hampton that inspired him to play the vibes.
During Jackson's early years of playing, the bebop movement was ushered in by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Jackson recalls one of the first recordings he heard: Charlie Parker's "Lady Be Good." "That was the most fascinating solo I had ever heard in my life. I didn't realize the impact of what he was doing until I heard this record...it really hadn't dawned on me how strong and how revoluntionay that the music was," Jackson recalls. For Jackson the bebop movement presented a great musical challenge that he quickly mastered. After landing a gig with Gillespie, he was invited to tour with the band. Jacksons experiences with Gillespie and Parker were invaluable and provided him with principles that would profoundly shape his approach to music.
Jackson became a integral part of Gillespie's band. In the late '40s, the rhythm section of that band which included pianist John Lewis, drummer Kenny Clarke and bassist Ray Brown would become the Milt Jackson Quartet, then in 1952, the Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ). Later that year, bassist Percy Heath replaced Ray Brown and, in 1955, Connie Kay filled the drummer's chair vacated by Kenny Clarke. The group performed together for the next four decades, helping to immortalize the Milt Jackson classics as "Bag's Groove," and "The Cylinder." More Home