Modern Jazz Quartet LIVE!
Milt Jackson – Vibes…. John Lewis – Piano…. Percy Heath – Bass…. Connie Kay – Drums….
Recorded – ZDF Jazzclub, Stadthalle Leonberg, Germany, April 1988
1. The Golden Striker 0:00 2. Three Windows 5:41 3. Prelude to a Kiss 11:44 4. Jack the Bear 17:34 5. It Don’t Mean a Thing 23:20 6. A Day in Dubrovnik 31:55 7. Rockin’ in Rhythm 48:21 8. Bags’ Groove 55:15
The MODERN JAZZ QUARTET
The Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ) was a jazz combo established in 1952 that played music influenced by classical, cool jazz, blues and bebop. For most of its history the Quartet consisted of John Lewis (piano), Milt Jackson (vibraphone), Percy Heath (double bass), and Connie Kay (drums). The group grew out of the rhythm section of Dizzy Gillespie’s big band from 1946 to 1948, which consisted of Lewis and Jackson along with bassist Ray Brown and drummer Kenny Clarke.
They recorded as the Milt Jackson Quartet in 1951 and Brown left the group, being replaced on bass by Heath. During the early-to-mid-1950s they became the Modern Jazz Quartet, Lewis became the group’s musical director, and they made several recordings with Prestige Records, including the original versions of their two best-known compositions, Lewis’s “Django” and Jackson’s “Bags’ Groove”. Clarke left the group in 1955 and was replaced as drummer by Connie Kay, and in 1956 they moved to Atlantic Records and made their first tour to Europe. Under Lewis’s direction, they carved their own niche by specializing in elegant, restrained music that used sophisticated counterpoint inspired by baroque music, yet nonetheless retained a strong blues feel.
Noted for their elegant presentation, they were one of the first small jazz combos to perform in concert halls rather than nightclubs. They were initially active into the 1970s until Jackson quit in 1974 due to frustration with their finances and touring schedule, but re-formed in 1981. They made their last released recordings in 1992 and 1993, by which time Kay had been having health issues and Mickey Roker had been his replacement drummer while Kay was unavailable. After Kay’s death in 1994, the group operated on a semi-active basis, with Percy Heath’s brother Albert Heath on drums until the group disbanded permanently in 1997.
The Modern Jazz Quartet played in a cool jazz style that combined bebop and the blues with classical elements. There was a marked contrast in styles between Jackson’s rhythmically complex blues-based solos and Lewis’s restrained manner of playing and classically influenced pieces. One of the first small jazz combos to perform in concert halls rather than nightclubs, the group was noted for habitually wearing formal attire at concerts, inspired by the bands of Duke Ellington and Jimmie Lunceford. In his book Visions of Jazz, Gary Giddins summed up their legacy with an explanation of the jazz scene in 1992: “… Young bands customarily performed in concert and at festivals, often in tailored suits. Composition was as widely vaunted for small ensembles as improvisation, and flawless intonation was considered vital. Such traditional jazz devices as polyphony, riffs, breaks, boogie bass, mutes, and fugal counterpoint, as well as a repertory that ranges over the entire history of the music, were everywhere apparent.
You could say that the Modern Jazz quartet now resided in a world at least partially of its own making.”
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