Milt Jackson - Ballads & Blues (Mono)
Milt Jackson (vibraphone) [click here to see more vinyl featuring Milt Jackson]
Oscar Pettiford (double bass) [click here to see more vinyl featuring Oscar Pettiford]
Kenny Clarke (drums) [click here to see more vinyl featuring Kenny Clarke]
Lucky Thompson (tenor saxophone), Barney Kessler (guitar), Barry Galbraith (guitar), Skeeter Best (guitar), Percy Heath (double bass), Lawrence Marable (drums).
Written by Harry Link (A2), Holt Marvell (A2), Jack Strachey (A2), Eddie DeLange (A3), Duke Ellington (A3), Irving Mills (A3), Irving Berlin (A4), Jerome Kern (A5), Herbert Reynolds (A5), Michael E. Rourke (A5), Nancy Hamilton (B1), Morgan Lewis (B1), Milt Jackson (B2, B3, B4)
1 LP, standard sleeve
Original analog Master tape : YES
Heavy Press : 180g
Record color : black
Speed : 33 RPM
Size : 12'’
Record Press : Pallas
Label : Speakers Corner
Original Label : Atlantic
Recording: January 1956 in New York City by Tom Dowd and February 1956 at Rudy Van Gelder Studio in Hackensack, New Jersey, by Rudy Van Gelder in mono
Production: Nesuhi Ertegun
Originally released in 1956
Reissued in 2019
Side A :
1. So In Love
2. These Foolish Things
4. The Song Is Ended
5. They Didn't Believe Me
Side B :
1. How High The Moon
2. Gerry's Blues
4. Bright Blues
Whenever Milt Jackson could free himself from the 'bondage' of the Modern Jazz Quartet and its assertive leader John Lewis, he dedicated himself to his two great passions: ballads and the blues. That was precisely the case when he entered the famous Rudy van Gelder Studio in Hackensack, New Jersey, USA in 1956. He was free to choose his sidemen, and money was no object, which is why various formations gathered in the studio for the three recording sessions. With Lucky Thompson on the tenor sax (unfortunately for only three numbers), Barry Galbraith, Barney Kessel or Skeeter Best on the guitar, Oscar Pettiford or Percy Heath on the bass, together with Kenny Clarke or Lawrence Marable on the drums, he set off on a journey through the history of jazz. John Lewis stayed unobtrusively in the background and offered 'Bags' (as Milt was known) plenty of opportunities to glory in soloistic freedom.
The themes were soon found: the musical composers Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and Jerome Kern, as well as a work from The Duke Ellington Songbook, formed a basis upon which all the musicians could perform with confidence. Three compositions by Milt Jackson himself proved that he too was full of imagination.
« Many of the jazz elite are known by a moniker or nickname. “Fats”, “Trane”, “Mash”, “Fatha”, “Newk” and “Lady Day” are members of jazz royalty who earned this honor. Then, there is “Bags”, better known as Milt Jackson. The legendary vibraphonist performed in various jazz sub-genres, including bebop, hard bop, modal and post-bop. His instrumental prowess was strongly associated with his harmonic and rhythm swing patterns. Jackson was noted for a lower-end vibraphone oscillator (3.3 revolutions/second) and tremolo sustains. His early career included stints with Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Herman, Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker. Jackson may be remembered as a founding member of the Modern Jazz Quartet. The “prime” lineup included pianist John Lewis, bassist Percy Heath (who replaced Ray Brown) and drummer Kenny Clarke. MJQ (with some lineup adjustments) recorded intermittently for four decades. Additionally, Jackson enjoyed success as a band leader, and collaborated with fellow legends Ray Charles, Coleman Hawkins, John Coltrane, Wes Montgomery, Oscar Peterson, Hank Mobley, Miles Davis, Hubert Laws and Stanley Turrentine (among many others). His indelible mark on jazz is transcendental.
Speakers Corner has released a 180-gram vinyl of the 1956 album, Milt Jackson – Ballads & Blues. This vintage recording, mixed by Rudy Van Gelder was one of many high points for Atlantic Records. Joining “Bags: is the his band mates from MJQ (Lewis, Heath and Clarke) with tenor saxophonist Lucky Thompson. Additionally, three guitarists (Barney Kessler, Barry Galbraith, Skeeter Best) with jazz veterans Oscar Pettiford (double bass) and Lawrence Marable rounded out the session. Side A opens with a Cole Porter composition from his Broadway play, Kiss Me Kate. Popularized by Patti Page in 1949, Jackson distills the minor-key moodiness with his crisp vibraphone runs. There is an effective reed accompaniment (arranged by Ralph Burns). Lewis, Pettiford and Clarke form a seamless, gently-flowing rhythm section. “These Foolish Things” (a staple of Billie Holiday’s repertoire), begins with Barney Kessel’s laid-back guitar licks. Jackson’s active notation dances around the melody. When the jam takes an expected uptick in tempo, it becomes a classic “Bags” swing number, ear-catching and spontaneous.
Reaching into The Great American Songbook, Duke Ellington’s bluesy reverie, “Solitude” is arranged with meticulous detail. Jackson plays around John Lewis’ signature minimal “Ellington-esque” piano solo. The reed section is a nice counterpoint, emphasizing the steady, processional build of this jazz composer. Switching gears, “The Song Is Ended” is pure, unadulterated swing. Jackson’s soloing is breathless in technical proficiency and rhythmic prominence. Kessel’s run is articulate and the subtle brush work (Marable) adds another texture. Jerome Kern’s perennial stage and movie standard, “They Didn’t Believe Me” is a ballad with a pulse. Jackson’s first solo is set against the guitar, while Lewis’ understated passage is framed by the reed section.
Amazingly, Side B gets even better. “How High The Moon” originated in a 1940 broadway revue, but subsequent covers (Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald and especially Les Paul/Mary Ford) made it a part of jazz history. Easing into a wistful ballad mode, Jackson’s fierce notation is complemented by Pettiford’s graceful bowed double bass. Then in classic Milt Jackson mode, the quartet transitions to swing. Lewis, Pettiford and Clarke are dialed in as a cool jazz ensemble. Adding the mellifluous tenor saxophone of Lucky Thompson raises the bar. Milt backs off during the tenor and double bass solo, as Lewis offers another thoughtful, agile run. “Bags” closes it out with a glowing echo. On “Gerry’s Blues” a straight ahead bop-infused arrangement features another deft Kessel guitar solo. This may be the bluesiest jam on the album. Slowing things down, “Hello” is a slow dance meditation. Jackson and Thompson have a distinct melodic feel for each other that is influenced by the chord progressions. The finale, “Bright Blues” is hard driving as Thompson joins for a third number. Clarke, Pettiford, Lewis, Thompson and the brilliant vibraphonist are in a tight pocket. Their nuanced chemistry is flawless, and the call and response between saxophone and vibraphone is uplifting. Of course, there is a big finish.
Speakers Corner has done an exemplary job in re-mastering Ballads & Blues to audiophile vinyl. Van Gelder’s pristine source engineering is maintained with integrity. Jackson’s diverse vibraphone tonality is captured with both clean precision and glowing warmth. The mono mix is blended without unnecessary density. » Robbie Gerson, Audiophile Audition, Apr 10, 2019
Allmusic : 4.5 / 5 , Discogs : Rate Your Music :