Jazz lost more than its share of greats in 1999 -- everyone from Mel Torme, Charlie Byrd, Grover Washington, Jr., Lester Bowie, and Charles Earland to Joe Williams, Art Farmer, Red Norvo, and Horace Tapscott. Another major loss came on October 9, 1999, when Milt "Bags" Jackson died of cancer at the age of 76. Jackson was among the finest jazz vibists of the 20th century. He was right up there with Lionel Hampton and Red Norvo, and if you're talking about bop specifically, instead of jazz on the whole, you could argue that he was the most important vibist to come along after WWII. In January 2000, Pablo/Fantasy honored his memory by putting out this collection of recordings he made for Prestige, Pablo, and Riverside -- some as a leader, some as a sideman. Spanning 1954-1983, To Bags With Love shows us just how consistent a player he was over the years. The vibist is heard in a variety of bop settings, which range from a 1955 recording with the Modern Jazz Quartet ("Ralph's New Blues") to encounters with Cannonball Adderley in 1958 ("Things Are Getting Better"), Wes Montgomery in 1961 ("S.K.J."), Benny Carter in 1976 ("Easy Money"), and Count Basie in 1978 ("Corner Pocket"). The oldest recording is "Bags' Groove" (which comes from a 1954 Miles Davis session that boasts Thelonious Monk on piano), and the most recent is Jackson and Oscar Peterson's piano/vibes duet on 1983's "Mister Basie." To Bags With Love is hardly the last word on Jackson, but it paints an impressive picture of his contributions and is among the CDs to acquire if you're exploring his music for the first time.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson