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Live at the Mt. Fuji Jazz Festival in 1986, Milt Jackson (vibes), Ceder Walton (piano), Buster Williams (bass), and Billy Higgins (drums).
His composition "Bags' Groove" has become a jazz standard. "Bags" was a nickname given to him by a bass player in Detroit and is said to have referred to the bags under his eyes from his habit of staying up all night.
Milton Jackson was born in Detroit on January 1, 1923. He attended Michigan State University and after began playing with local groups in the Detroit area in the early 1940's. After moving to New York he became known as ‘The’ vibraphone player for obvious reasons. He joined Dizzy’s Orchestra in 1946 and also played with Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Tadd Dameron and of course John Lewis. MJQ the members, came together in 1951 and when Jackson signed with Prestige Records the following year, the group became known as the Modern Jazz Quartet.
He was discovered by Dizzy Gillespie, who hired him for his sextet in 1946 and also kept him for larger ensembles. He quickly acquired experience working with the most important figures in jazz of the era, including Woody Herman, Howard McGhee, Thelonious Monk, and Charlie Parker.
In the Gillespie big band, Jackson fell into a pattern that led to the founding of the Modern Jazz Quartet: Gillespie maintained a former swing tradition of a small group within a big band, and his included Jackson, pianist John Lewis, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer Kenny Clarke (considered a pioneer of the ride cymbal timekeeping that became the signature for bop and most jazz to follow) while the brass and reeds took breaks. When they decided to become a working group in their own right, around 1950, the foursome was known at first as the Milt Jackson Quartet, becoming the Modern Jazz Quartet in 1952. By that time Percy Heath had replaced Ray Brown.
Jackson performed with the Modern Jazz Quartet from the 1950's until his passing on October 9, 1999. During his career he made albums with Wes Montgormery, Quincy Jones, Ray Charles, John Coltrane and B.B. King among many others. Jackson's popularity as a vibraphonist remains and his music continues to have a strong influence.
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