Milt Jackson & John Coltrane: Be-Bop
Composed by Dizzy Gillespie.
Recorded: New York, January 15, 1959
Rating: 93/100 (learn more)
There was more to Milt Jackson than putting on a tuxedo with the Modern Jazz Quartet and performing what some perceived as soulless, overly refined and restrained jazz, usually in distinguished concert halls rather than smoky night clubs. Yet even with the MJQ, Jackson never lost his bluesy edge and found plenty of challenges in the music. Away from the MJQ, he'd enter the recording studio to enthusiastically engage outstanding musicians such as Lucky Thompson, Cannonball Adderley, Coleman Hawkins, Wes Montgomery and, last but not least, John Coltrane. Jackson had first played with Coltrane in Dizzy Gillespie's Sextet in the early '50's, but of course this was a much different Trane in 1959 – the tenorman was just three months away from his breakthrough Giant Steps session.
Probably their past Gillespie connection led them to play Dizzy's "Be-Bop" amidst a repertoire of standards and blues. Coltrane takes the theme, then gives way to Jackson's bracing improvisation ably supported by Jones's assertive comping, Chambers's pulsing bassline and Kay's insistent cymbal beat. Jackson's brisk single-note lines speed by almost in a blur, and his rhythmically emphatic attack is accentuated by his characteristically pronounced vibrato. Coltrane solos with beseeching runs, slurs, wails and intervallic leaps, his momentum maintained confidently for the duration, although a bit of repetition in his then- characteristic "sheets of sound" approach becomes apparent near the end. Jones's concise solo is bop at its most thoughtful and engrossing. Bags and Trane then trade fours, Jackson's sparse phrases seemingly intended to provoke Coltrane's fertile imagination, which they succeed grandly in doing.
Reviewer: Scott Albin