Jazz Review: Milt Jackson and Oscar Peterson Play On Green Dolphin Street

May 4, 2018

The Jazz Society has not really done enough in recognizing two important jazz musicians: these are vibraphonist Milt Jackson and Oscar Peterson. 


Milt Jackson was born in the early 1920s, but was a major figure in jazz by 1945. Around this time, Dizzy Gillespie created a quartet that became the Modern Jazz Quartet (originally, Milt Jackson Quartet) in the early 1950s. 


Jackson's Modern Jazz Quartet played with Charlie Parker and went on to become one of jazz's most permanent groups. It broke up in the 1970s but then did some more performances in the 1980s and 1990s. 


However, "Bags", as Milt Jackson was known, played with other musicians as well, including guitarist Wes Montgomery, pianist Horace Silver, and pianist Oscar Peterson. For this jazz review, we will focus on a recording by Milt Jackson and the Oscar Peterson Trio. The album with Peterson and Jackson was called Very Tall; the tunes selected for the album include some good jazz standards like Green Dolphin Street and Work Song. 


We mentioned Green Dolphin Street before in a comparison of jazz pianists, and here, we return to that same tune, which is found on many jazz albums recorded in the 1950s and 1960s. Although the Very Tall version of Green Dolphin Street is different from other versions, it is more atmospheric than any other version. In fact, few jazz recordings were ever as atmospheric as this one. 


This version of Green Dolphin Street begins with a rather mysterious intro that sounds as if it would be the beginning to Nica's Dream. But instead, Milt Jackson enters on the vibraphone with the melody for On Green Dolphin Street. 


If anyone is wondering where the metallic sound comes from in the recording, it is from the drums. This drum effect is the single most atmospheric aspect to the whole Green Dolphin Street recording.


Milt Jackson's signature sound is clear as soon as Jackson begins to improvise. Although his improvisation is undoubtedly bebop, every solo he plays is blues-rooted, and this is clear from the Jackson-Peterson recordings.


Jackson "gets going", as they say, towards the end of his solo, although the vibraphone is never loud during his solo. He instead retains a pleasurable sound throughout.


The volume of the recording comes down significantly at the beginning of pianist Oscar Peterson's solo (which follows Jackson's) and focus on the recording is increased by a change in the rhythm. Peterson plays quiet, attention-getting phrases for about a minute before he gradually increases the tense excitement of his solo, which is nearly three minutes in length.


The bassist, Ray Brown, and the drummer, Ed Thigpen, do not take a solo or improvise at all, but instead the melody is returned to after Peterson's solo. The tune ends with with another rather unusual strike of the drum kit.




"Green Dolphin Street" by Milt Jackson and Oscar Peterson - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbHCrFvzwG0

Milt Jackson biography (our main information source) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milt_Jackson

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