Personalities | Milt Jackson | Fifties | Jazz & Blues
Milt Jackson diverged from his two great predecessors on vibes, Lionel Hampton and Red Norvo, by developing a linear, rhythmically inflected approach rooted in bebop rather than swing. He preferred the slightly larger vibraharp to the more familiar vibraphone, and adjusted the oscillator to give a trademark rich, warm sound.
He recorded as a leader and worked with many major names, including Coleman Hawkins, John Coltrane, Oscar Peterson and Ray Charles, but was best known as part of the long-running Modern Jazz Quartet, one of the most successful groups in jazz history. That band began as the Milt Jackson Quartet but ran as the MJQ from 1952–74, and occasionally thereafter. Jackson was a gifted soloist, steeped in the earthy pragmatism of gospel and blues; his playing provided a counterweight to the intricate classicism of pianist John Lewis’s compositions and arrangements for the group, but without upsetting the balance of the music.
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