Milt Jackson

Ballads & Blues/Bags & Flutes

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The unassuming title of this compilation understates the fact that Milt Jackson is a master of ballad and blues forms, and an inspired collaborator when working flautists. True to form, the ever-consistent Jackson delivers the goods on this reissue of two of the vibraphonist's Atlantic releases -- one from 1956, the other from 1958. The small group settings for these performances allow the players -- some of the very best in jazz and all in top form -- to be heard to full advantage. The guitarists are particularly effective, the crisp, cool tones of Skeeter Best, Barry Galbraith, Barney Kessel, and Kenny Burrell complementing the rich, ringing cascade from Jackson's vibes. Of note from 1956's Ballads and Blues are two performances with tenor saxophonist Lucky Thompson. These will be appreciated by anyone who has enjoyed Jackson's work with Thompson on the Savoy label. The 1956 date also has three Ralph Burns arrangements that augment the players with a woodwind quintet. While neither overly lush or cloying, the oboes, etc., still don't add a lot to what the core group has to say. For the 1958 session, Jackson is partnered alternately with Frank Wess and Bobby Jaspar -- two of the leading pioneers that helped bring the flute into the mainstream of jazz. For these six performances, the rhythm section blends and balances superbly, creating supple, meaty, hard bopping grooves for Jackson's limitless capacity for invention and for the stellar, swinging performances of Jaspar and Wess.

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