At 75, Milt Jackson is older than Union Station (1934-39), a National Historic Site in whose vast Spanish Baroque-styled ticket hall the vibraphonist fielded a quartet on a lazy Sunday afternoon. But unlike Union Station, once the bustling transportation hub of Southern California, Jackson remains at the peak of his prominence, as inventive as ever within a genre seemingly frozen in time.
In its zeal to present concerts where one normally wouldn’t expect to find them, the Da Camera Society’s Chamber Music in Historic Sites series has been returning again and again to this hall for chamber jazz. As is so often true with this series, the match between idiom and room is uncanny; the acoustics are reverberant yet gently so, projecting plenty of detail and a crystalline sound from Jackson’s vibraphone.
Even the style of jazz — the conservative yet masterly hard bop that Jackson usually purveys while away from the Modern Jazz Quartet — fit the room and its relaxed ambiance, particularly on this late afternoon, when the natural sunset light streaming in made the hall glow.
Though Jackson can still be mildly adventurous in the recording studio for Qwest, on this date he stuck mostly with an assortment of standards and blues, sweetly and fluidly blended by a quartet of veterans. Within the constraints of the idiom, Jackson could peel off one intricate, beautifully constructed bebop lick after another with all of his old agility and subtle swing. (Vibraphonists tend to be an especially durable breed among jazzers.) He found plenty of pertinent things to say in every number, even in his done-to-death signature tune, “Bags’ Groove.”
Cedar Walton offered an assortment of grand chording, wandering logic and to-the-point blues dealing on the piano, while Andy Simp-kins delivered touches of Slam Stewart-like scatting along with his infectious dotted-note swinging on bass. The blithest spirit of the four belonged to Jackson’s MJQ colleague Tootie Heath, whose delicate yet propulsive manipulation of his drum kit came off in scintillating detail within the acoustics of the train station, particularly in his great boogalooing solo on “St. Thomas.”
Jackson performs todaythrough Sunday at Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood.