J. Swenson: ‘Michael Jackson’, The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll, ed. A. DeCurtis and others (New York, 1976, 3/1992), 649–55
G. Brown: The Complete Guide to the Music of Michael Jackson and the Jackson Family (New York, 1996)
Jackson, Milt(on) [Bags]
(b Detroit, 1 Jan 1923; d New York, 9 Oct 1999). American jazz vibraphonist. After an early engagement in Dizzy Gillespie’s sextet (1945–6) and big band (1946) he worked with Howard McGhee, Charlie Parker, Woody Herman and others (1948–9). In 1948 he recorded the blues Misterioso and other titles as a participant in Thelonious Monk’s celebrated sessions for the Blue Note label. He returned to Gillespie from 1950 to 1952, and during the same period issued some recordings under the name of the Milt Jackson Quartet. By the end of 1952 this group was renamed the Modern jazz quartet. Jackson’s career was centred around the MJQ until 1974; only in the summer months when the MJQ did not perform did he regularly take on other jazz engagements as a leader or sideman. Following the group’s dissolution he toured alone, performing with local bands in various cities, but from 1981 until 1997 he rejoined his African-American colleagues in the MJQ on a regular basis.
Jackson was the first vibraphonist (he actually played the Deagan vibraharp) in the bop style. His improvisations exhibit great rhythmic variety, with sudden outbursts of short notes often adjoining languid, sustained phrases. He utilized a wide range of dynamics to highly expressive ends. His great control of rhythm and dynamics is clearest in his masterly improvisations at slow tempos, but he also had a fondness for the 12-bar blues, and has recorded many excellent blues solos. He was one of the first vibraphonists to slow the speed of the instrument’s oscillator to about 3·3 revolutions per second (as opposed to Lionel Hampton’s vibrato speed of about 10 per second), thus warming his long notes with a subtle vibrato and avoiding the nervous shimmy on shorter notes that is heard in the work of earlier players. Jackson wrote a number of well-known jazz tunes, such as Bluesology (1951, Dee Gee), Bags’ Groove (1952, BN), The Cylinder (1959, on the album Ballad Artistry, Atl.) and Ralph’s New Blues (1955, on the MJQ’s album Concorde, Prst.), the simple pentatonicism and formal design of which often contrast sharply with the complexity of his improvisations.