Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Milt Abel, R.I.P.

Milt and the MP3 have left us.

Milt Abel specialized in a brand of cocktail jazz that gets virtually no respect these days. But there was a time when musicians like the Modern Jazz Quartet, Ahmad Jamal and Erroll Garner were both popular and critically respected. Bassist Milt Abel enjoyed a similar status in Kansas City.

I became familiar with Abel in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, when a swank affair wasn’t complete without Abel and his upright bass. In prior decades, Abel led a successful nightclub act. A handsome man partial to staid sports jackets and slacks, Abel was infused with a quiet dignity. He was an Episcopalian, after all.

Abel died Sunday. He was 77. While his talent was comparable to better known jazz bassists Milt Hinton and Ray Brown, Abel never achieved national acclaim. I recall that Abel had a fine singing voice that matched his smooth tone on bass, but I’m not sure if any recorded examples of his singing exist. And I’m fairly certain he never recorded as a leader.

I wouldn’t typically associate Abel with Thelonious Monk, but this sedate version of "Blue Monk" from a locally released charitable project is a great example of Abel’s sophisticated style. That’s Jay McShann on piano, Tommy Ruskin on drums and Michael White on clarinet.

In a 1998 issue of JAM magazine, Mike Metheny mentioned that Abel sung at Charlie Parker’s funeral. I’m sure he’ll be memorialized with wonderful music at his jazz wake on Thursday.


Hank Garland said...

Milt Abel is my Uncle. I do know of some recordings he sang on.If you go to the Musicians Union page in Kansas City you will see on the page some wonderful old recordings of Bettye and Milt, or known as The Bettye Miller Trio.
Milt had a beautiful voice too.
Milt Abel was a wonderful human being! He was the one that really defined the term "JAZZ" for me. I will never forget what he said and how he said it. Now I don't worry anymore about what Jazz means, believe me I have talked to alot of jazz musicians but I will say Milt said it Best! That is a Gift he gave to me before he departed to Heaven. God Bless Milt & our family,'
his niece Amy Garland

Happy In Bag said...

Thanks for the wonderful words, Ms. Garland.

Hank Garland said...

You can go to
Musicians Local No 627
go to: The Music
scroll down and you will see Bettye Miller Trio featuring Milt Abel,bassist
"I Get a Kick Out Of You" The music is timeless and beautiful!
Modern Jazz Workshop EAR-496, 1957
Also Milt was in the movie with Paul Newman "Mr & Mrs. Bridges"
Thank you for sharing Uncle Milt!
~ Amy Garland
also listed on Musicians Local No 627 is alot of great info. too!