Milt Jackson,76, a jazz vibraphonist who made the instrument sing like the human voice as a longtime member of the Modern Jazz Quartet, died of liver cancer Saturday at a Manhattan hospital.
One of the best improvisers in jazz and an outstanding blues player, Mr. Jackson originally was a singer in a Detroit gospel quartet. In the 1940s, he created a new sound by slowing the motor on his Deagan Vibraharp's oscillator to a third of the speed of Lionel Hampton's. The result was a warm, smoky sound with a vibrato approximating his singing.
"He came closer than anyone else on the instrument to making it sound like the human voice," vibraphonist Stefon Harris said.
In 1952, pianist John Lewis formed the Modern Jazz Quartet and Mr. Jackson signed on.
Through 20 years of albums, the group became one of the first jazz bands embraced by an audience much wider than jazz fans.