This enjoyably comfortable disc more specifically celebrates John Coltrane during, and shortly after, his time with Miles Davis in the late ’50s and early ’60s. There is no material here older than “My One and Only Love,” from ‘Trane’s collaboration with Johnny Hartman in 1963. That narrow timeframe is tailor-made for the experience and virtues of this ensemble, especially drummer Jimmy Cobb, who kept time on such legendary recordings as Coltrane’s Giant Steps and Miles’s Kind of Blue, where the likes of “Naima” and “Freddie Freeloader” were christened. And while bassist Nat Reeves and pianist Mulgrew Miller are a generation younger, they join Cobb to comprise a rhythm section of consummate pros, adept at making strong music without calling attention to themselves, be it with their split-second timing, innovative fills, or astute grace notes — all informed by a rich intimacy with the material and the bop and hard-bop genre.
Jackson has a lighter, slightly creamier tone on the tenor than Coltrane, which helps him establish his own identity on these mostly well-known numbers. A member of one of the last editions of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and further schooled in a band led by Coltrane drummer Elvin Jones, his phrasing is a pleasing blend of swing and pulsation, and he uses fluttering to good effect on both “Someday My Prince Will Come” and “If I Were A Bell” (although the pianist Miller commands the latter tune with effortless Ã©lan). On the ballad “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” you imagine Jackson’s notes to be tear-shaped, hanging bottom-heavy with a slight sway.