Milt Jackson – The Prophet Speaks (1994)

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NICK DERISO: The second LP by vibesman Milt Jackson on Quincy Jones’ Qwest label made his late-career reemergence complete.

Where the earlier “Reverence and Compassion” featured small-group offerings coupled with lush, orchestral pieces, “The Prophet Speaks” — issued just five years before Jackson’s passing — was far bluesier and much more substantial.

Jackson kept the working group in place, including pianist Cedar Walton, bassist John Clayton and drummer Billy Higgins, but also invited in saxist Joshua Redman and singer Joe Williams to jostle things up a bit. It makes for a more deeply collaborative — and satisfying — outing.

Walton, the ex-Jazz Messenger, is exceptional on the date, adding great shading and coloring to a sound first established under the tutelage of Art Blakey. He was growing into a genuinely deep thinker at the piano, one who displayed both a fierce devotion to a soulish deep end but also a light pianistic touch.

My only real complaint, perhaps, was that he isn’t allowed a composition on “The Prophet Speaks.”

Williams, too, was somewhat rudimentary, as expected, on “You Are So Beautiful”; yet, his just-right moaned-and-hummed delivery of “Blue Monk” was a revelation. Redman was reliably brilliant throughout.

Which brings us to Jackson, one of the deans of the vibraphone. (Then celebrating his fourth decade with the Modern Jazz Quartet, Jackson was part of the original rhythm section for Dizzy Gillespie’s post-war big band.)

On “Prophet,” he was all hot-diggety rhythm. Jackson tinkled, feinted and counter-punched. This record, with “Reverence” as its flipside, completed the portrait of Jackson as perhaps the most balanced artist ever on the vibes — even this late in his career (see embedded live performance from 1994, below).

Milt Jackson remained affable in the tradition of Lionel Hampton, but with this remarkable capacity for darker colorings.

 

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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