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Mon, 01.01.1923

Detroit jazz great Milt Jackson born

Milt Jackson

Milt Jackson was born on this date in 1923. He was a Black jazz musician, the first and most influential vibes player of the modern jazz era.

He was born in Detroit. At age 16, Jackson began playing vibes or vibraphone professionally. He attended Michigan State University and joined Dizzy Gillespie's sextet in 1945; he then worked with Gillespie's big band and later returned to play vibes and piano in Gillespie's sextet from 1950 to 1952. During this time, he freelanced with leading bop musicians in New York City and played in the Woody Herman band.

Also called “BAGS,” Jackson was a cofounder of the Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ), which was his principal performance mouthpiece from 1952 to 1974. Meanwhile, he also recorded often as sideman, including classic sessions with Thelonious Monk--Evidence, Criss Cross, and Miles Davis Bags' Groove; and as leader, including sets with top tenor saxophonists Coleman Hawkins, John Coltrane, and Lucky Thompson.

Jackson’s fluent playing had an undeniable swing that is heard in long lines of eighth and sixteenth notes. He created an original style out of bebop's advanced harmonies and irregular beats. His sensitivity to balance and contrast made much of his playing with the MJQ gentle when compared with his aggressive work in his own groups.

Milt Jackson died in 1999.

Jazz People
by Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated, New York
Copyright 1976
ISBN 0-8109-1152-3

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