Despite the pessimistic title, all of the members of this particular quartet (vibraphonist Milt Jackson, pianist Oscar Peterson, bassist Ray Brown and drummer Grady Tate) were still active into the mid-'90s. The music is unsurprising but still quite enjoyable and virtuosic as Bags and Co. perform blues, standards and ballads with their usual swing and bop-based creativity. Highlights include the title cut, "Stuffy," "What Am I Here For" and a vibes-piano duo version of "A Time for Love."
The music on Wizard of the Vibes features Milt Jackson with the Thelonious Monk Quartet in a 1948 session combined with a 1952 date with his bandmates from the Modern Jazz Quartet (at that time including John Lewis, Percy Heath, and Kenny Clarke) along with alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson, who was oddly credited as the leader of the date on the original release, though it clearly seems to be Jackson in charge. The chemistry between Jackson and Monk on classics like "Misterioso," "Evidence," "I Mean You," and "Epistrophy" is immediately apparent, although Kenny "Pancho" Hagood's vocals on the standards "All the Things You Are" and "I Should Care" remain an acquired taste…
Recorded in 1973 as a foray away from the Modern Jazz Quartet, Milt Jackson's second entry on the CTI label is also one of its highlights. This is one of Creed Taylor's finest productions both in terms of material and sidemen. Drummer Steve Gadd, flutist Hubert Laws, bassist Ron Carter, and pianist Cedar Walton accompany Jackson on the majority of the album. Indeed, Jackson's ability to swing funky is evidenced to delightful extremes on "Old Devil Moon," with a rolling cymbal shakeout from Gadd, whose rim shots and tempo-pushing musculature are a sharp contrast to those of the MJQ's Connie Kay. Likewise, Laws, whose playing is usually over the top, stays inside melodic nuances here and provides Jackson with an essential harmonic foil. And Ron Carter is playing throughout with a popping edge he never had before or since.
This Savoy CD is a duplicate of the original LP although it lacks the fine liner notes included on the Arista/Savoy 1978 LP. The four selections (which unfortunately total under 34 minutes) are excellent, particularly a fun version of Horace Silver's blues "Opus De Funk" in which vibraphonist Milt Jackson, flutist Frank Wess and pianist Hank Jones have a long tradeoff. The quintet (which also includes bassist Eddie Jones and drummer Kenny Clarke) swings nicely throughout the three blues and lone ballad ("You Leave Me Breathless"). This is not essential, but it is enjoyable music.
Reissue features the latest digital remastering and the high-fidelity SHM-CD format (compatible with standard CD player) and the latest DSD / HR Cutting remastering. Comes with a description. Features the original LP designs. A slightly different take on the Modern Jazz Quartet sound of the early years – as the album features Milt Jackson's vibes in the company of MJQ bandmates Percy Heath and Connie Kay, but also includes Horace Silver on piano – in the spot normally reserved for John Lewis! The presence of Silver on piano gives a bit of a harder edge to the set, one that almost recalls some of Jackson's work on Blue Note in the early 50s, yet which is rounded out here by a few lighter and more lyrical touches on rhythm.