- Jackson, Milton
▪ 2000“Bags”American jazz musician (b. Jan. 1, 1923, Detroit, Mich.—d. Oct. 9, 1999, New York, N.Y.), introduced a range of expression and melody to a previously unexpressive percussion instrument, the vibraphone, in order to create passionate solos that made him one of the giants of modern jazz. In his youth he sang and played several instruments in Detroit groups. After attending Michigan State University and serving in the U.S. Air Force, he made his mark in one of the first bebop combos, the 1945 Dizzy Gillespie Sextet that included alto saxophonist Charlie Parker. Jackson incorporated the rhythmic and harmonic innovations of Parker and trumpeter Gillespie into his own solos, which became long streams of melody, conveyed with compelling swing. His flowing lines provided memorable contrasts in outstanding recordings by Thelonious Monk, Lucky Thompson, Miles Davis, and most of all in the Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ), which he cofounded in 1952. The MJQ featured a light percussion group sound and a wide-ranging repertoire centred on compositions by its pianist, John Lewis; Jackson's vibes sound—he manipulated his instrument to yield a rare dynamic range—and his solos, bursting out of Lewis's detailed arrangements, were among the MJQ's principal attractions. Meanwhile, Jackson's alternate romanticism and urgent blues feeling made him an outstanding interpreter of ballads and blues in his secondary career as a freelancer and leader of small groups; on rare occasions he also played piano and guitar on recordings. After the MJQ disbanded in 1974, Jackson toured on his own, often teaming with bassist Ray Brown, playing in all-star units, and recording for the Pablo label; after 1981 he also toured often with the reunited MJQ. His swing, urgent emotion, and high musical standards were sustained, remarkably, throughout his long career and were important elements in making him the most influential of jazz vibraphonists.
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