Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
When the Modern Jazz Quartet disbanded after more than 20 years, most of the blame fell on vibraphonist Milt Jackson. Jackson practically had come to personify the vibes, but reportedly he felt he had neither the fame nor the fortune to show for it.
Wednesday night at Blues Alley, Jackson demonstrated why people identify him with the vibes. He also proved that his solo flight has been a success.
Playing with a Washington-based quartet (Reuben Brown, piano; Steve Novosel, bass; Bernard Sweetney, drums; Buck Hill, tenor saxophone), Jackson easily mixed standard melodies with burst of fluid improvisation. He is a player who has improved with age, and recent albums have shown him to be at the top of his form.
His performing style is still more perfunctory than flashy (a criticism occasionally aimed at the Modern Jazz Quartet), but his leadss are so artistically executed and his use of dynamics so utterly effective, that there is excitement in the subtlety.
Sweetney was a wee bit too forceful in spots, and Wednesday night's opening set a bit too brief, but these were minor flaws in a major performance. Jackson and quartet continue through Saturday.