Milt Jackson Day

January 1, 1923 – October 9, 1999

A tribute to the great vibraphonist

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Vibraphonist Milt Jackson was born on January 1, 1923 in Detroit, Michigan.

Raised on church music, Jackson started playing the guitar when he was seven, piano at 11, drums, timpani and violin in high school, and also sang including with a gospel quartet the Evangelist Singers.

After hearing Lionel Hampton play the vibes with Benny Goodman when he was 16, Jackson began playing that instrument, working locally in Detroit.

He was discovered by Dizzy Gillespie in 1945 and was soon working with the trumpeter’s sextet and big band.

Considered the definitive bebop vibraphonist (along with Terry Gibbs),, Jackson worked with Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Howard McGhee, recorded with Thelonious Monk, and was a member of Woody Herman’s Second Herd.

Milt Jackson led a quartet in 1950 that within two years had become the Modern Jazz Quartet, his main unit during 1952-74 and 1981-93.

In addition to his work with the MJQ, Jackson (a master of blues, bop and ballads) had a strong solo career, made many recordings as a leader (including co-leading dates with Coleman Hawkins and John Coltrane), appeared on all-star sessions (including many for the Pablo label in the 1970s and ‘80s), and stayed active until his passing in 1999.

Here is Milt Jackson performing “’Round Midnight” with the Modern Jazz Quartet in the early 1980s.


Milt Jackson, vibraphone
John Lewis, piano
Ray Brown, bass
Connie Kay, drums

-Scott Yanow


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