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Milt Jackson: Elegant Vibrations

Some sounds in jazz come at you like a wise, warmhearted friend, with a characteristic voice particular to the musician and integral to the general definition of jazz. Case in point: the rich, supple sound of Milt Jackson at his vibes. Into the relatively slender ranks of important voices on the vibraphone, the venerable Jackson makes his distinctive presence known. It’s in the way he shapes a phrase, and his subtle use of the speed control on his instrument’s vibrato, giving his sound a vocal quality. In short, in the lineage of jazz history, Jackson is the guy who put the vibe in the vibes.

Two years back, he could be heard in an amicable dueling-vibes concert at the Montreal Jazz Festival, with Gary Burton, the titan from a later generation. It was a fascinating, revealing meeting of the minds and hands, Burton with his nimble four-mallet style and Jackson with his warm, amber-toned approach.

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