Difficult to believe that the quality of sound and packaging should be so good at this price. It's worth it for the splendid 'Plenty Plenty Soul' alone, which finds Bags in a biggish-band context, but 'The Jazz Skyline' with the underrated Lucky Thompson is excellent, Kenny Clarke's 'Telefunken Blues' with the master of the vibraphone on piano and 'Milt Jackons Quartet' with Horace Silver on piano are also well worth the price of admission. Don't hesitate for even a moment; it's a swinging affair.
I have long been of the opinion that the 1950s were the greatest decade in jazz. This superb Avid release merely confirms my feelings as I listened to the four albums, none of which I had heard before. The first CD kicks off with the album "The Jazz Skyline" recorded in Jan. 1956 and featuring Jackson with Lucky Thompson (ts) Hank Jones (pno) Wendell Marshall (b) and Kenny Clarke (dms). Thompson has been badly neglected on CD but this release goes some way to putting matters right (see also the recent John Lewis CD on Avid). This is a thoroughly enjoyable session. I particularly liked "Angel Face" and "What's New". The last named is a feature for Thompson. I thought Stan Getz had recorded the definitive version a few years previous but may have to review my assessment. Next up is the album "Milt Jackson Quartet" recorded in May 1955. Basically, this is the MJQ with Horace Silver replacing Lewis. This change plus the choice of material makes any comparison pointless. A straight forward swinging affair. This disc is rounded off with three tracks from the July 1948 session featuring Theloniuos Monk with Jackson assisted by John Simmons (b) and Shadow Wilson (dms) playing three classic Monk originals. The second CD opens with the album "Telefunken Blues" on which Kenny Clarke is the nominal leader. It features two sessions of 4 tracks each. The first was recorded in Hollywood in Nov. 1954 with Jackson, Frank Morgan (as) Walter Benton (ts)Gerald Wiggins (pno) and Percy heath (b) This is a very nice session but the second one is even better. This was laid down in New York in Feb 1955 and features Jackson on piano with Henry Coker (tmb) Frank Wess (ts & flute)Charlie Fowlkes (bari) Eddie Jones (d)and Kenny Clarke (dms).All four tracks were written and arranged by Ernie Wilkins and are quite superb with the sextet sounding like a much bigger group Last, bur not least, comes the album "Plenty, Plenty Soul". This ia an absolute cracker and, once again, comes from two sessions. First up are three tracks recorded on the 7th Jan 1957 by a nine piece band featuring the likes of Ronnie Peters (as) Frank Foster (ts) Sahib Shahab (bari) Joe Newman (tpt)Jimmy Cleveland (tmb) Hotace Silver (pno) Percy Heath (b) Art Blakey (dms) plus, of course Milt Jackson (vibs). Finally, four tracks recorded two days earlier where Jackson is joined by Lucky Thompson (ts)Oscar Pettiford (b) Connie Kay (dms) plus Newman and Silver. Each session includes one number written and arranged by a certain Qincy Jones. Recording quality is first class and, I need hardly add, the issue is highly recommended.
It is very interesting to listen to Milt Jackson as a leader, mostly in the Fifties. These are the complete recordings in two cds from four different dates: "Milt Jackson Quartet" (1955), "Telefunken Blues" (1954-55), "The Jazz Skyline" (1956) and "Plenty, Plenty Soul" (1957). Three tunes are added from the recordings that Jackson made in 1948 with Thelonious Monk, maybe just to fill the cd length: actually, there's no need to include it, due to the fact that Monk's album containing those masterpieces ("Genius of Modern Music vol.1") is already an essential item in every good record collection. In these two Milt Jackson's cds we hear beautiful bop music, with strong influences from blues and gospel. In the same years the vibist was part of the Modern Jazz Quartet, the group where he really played at its best. But these recordings as a leader are strongly recommended, also because the personnels are full of great jazzmen, such as Lucky Thompson, Oscar Pettiford, Art Blakey, Joe Newman. Last bu not the least: in "Milt Jackson Quartet" we can hear what the Modern Jazz Quartet could be if Horace Silver were in place of John Lewis.