It wasn't hard for Fantasy to put together The Best of Milt Jackson due to their immense collection of master tapes of his work for Riverside and Prestige, including dates as a leader, sideman or musical partner. The hard part was narrowing it down to just 14 tracks from the eight albums surveyed. Jackson's distinctive, very percussive but always swinging sound meshes with any group of musicians, whether in a small group or a large orchestra. Jackson's work as a composer is also featured, including the driving blues "Stonewall" (from a meeting with Horace Silver), the spry blues "Sam Sack," which inspires guitarist Wes Montgomery and pianist Wynton Kelly, as well as the smoking "Namesake," with a delicious big band arrangement by Ernie Wilkins. One can hardly ignore his interpretations of works by fellow jazz greats, particularly Tadd Dameron's gorgeous scoring of Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight" and Dameron's dreamy ballad "If You Could See Me Now." Orrin Keepnews, who was the co-founder of Riverside and originally produced 12 of the tracks present in this collection, also provides unique insight to Jackson's many fine dates for his label. This compilation will appeal to jazz fans with a limited budget, though all of the individual CDs from which this music was taken are well-worth purchasing.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden