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The Modern Jazz Quartet – The Artistry Of The MJQ (1986/2019) [Official Digital Download 24bit/44,1 kHz]

The Modern Jazz Quartet – The Artistry Of The MJQ (1986/2019)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 01:04:16 minutes | 577 MB | Genre: Soul
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Front Cover | © RevOla

Vibraphonist Milt Jackson, pianist John Lewis, bassist Percy Heath, and drummer Kenny Clarke were all veterans of Dizzy Gillespie’s big band when they decided to dedicate themselves to the cooperative venture of the Modern Jazz Quartet. This compilation brings together material from 1952 to 1955, culled from recordings originally done for the Prestige label, and it shows both the gestation of the group and its early accomplishments. While the group could still swing with the unbridled ferocity of bop, the quieter instrumentation and Lewis’s tunes were changing the music considerably. They were in the process of creating a new school of jazz, “cool,” and they were already creating a repertoire that would permanently augment the jazz songbook. Heard here are the original recordings of Lewis’s “Django,” a tribute to the gypsy guitarist that’s one of the most beautiful tunes in the canon, and Milt Jackson’s “Ralph’s New Blues.” Sigmund Romberg’s “Softly As in a Morning Sunrise” is here, too, in a rendition that would forever associate the tune with the group and make it a jazz standard in the process. By the final session, Connie Kay had replaced Clarke, giving the group the lighter touch that would help define its ultimate identity. Also included are four tracks from a session with Sonny Rollins, including a moving version of Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood”.

Spanning one of the few transitional periods for the Modern Jazz Quartet when Connie Kay replaced Kenny Clarke as the group’s drummer, The Artistry of the Modern Jazz Quartet covers the years from 1952-1955. By this point in the group’s career, John Lewis was largely overseeing the quartet’s repertoire, penning the bulk of the original material. Indeed, on The Artistry Of, the pianist contributes six compositions to Milt Jackson’s one (the excellent “Ralph’s New Blues”). The set is balanced out by renditions of the most common of jazz standards in “Almost Like Falling in Love,” “I’ll Remember April,” and “In a Sentimental Mood,” and the work of more contemporary artists like Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Rollins. Though the chops of each member are undeniable, the performances are, for the most part, rather reserved, placing technique and group coordination above strong emotion. Lewis’ “La Ronde” was an early favorite, and it’s easy to see why. Here the all-rhythm lineup is completely locked in, particularly the drums and vibes, and the head packs a punch lacking on much of the material. Jackson balances restraint and umph! on a memorable solo while Lewis responds with excellent bopisms on piano. Two songs later, however, the group are strolling through the awkward “The Queen’s Fancy,” a composition whose overly sentimental melody line, complete with regal undertones, has faired less well over time. More impressive are readings of “Rose of the Rio Grande” and Lewis’ “Delaunay’s Dilemma.” In 1951, the MJQ had backed Sonny Rollins on a Prestige date, and The Artistry Of finds the saxophonist repaying the favor, lending prime solos to a handful of cuts including his own “The Stopper” and “No Moe.” In the end, this album is a fine introduction to the sound and sensibility of the MJQ.


01 – La Ronde
02 – Rose Of The Rio Grande
03 – The Queen’s Fancy
04 – Delaunay’s Dilemma
05 – In A Sentimental Mood
06 – The Stopper
07 – Almost Like Being In Love
08 – No Moe
09 – Django
10 – One Bass Hit
11 – Milano
12 – Ralph’s New Blues
13 – I’ll Remember April
14 – Concorde
15 – Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise

Milt Jackson – vibraphone
John Lewis – piano
Percy Heath – bass
Kenny Clarke – drums on “01-11”
Connie Kay – drums on “12-15”
Sonny Rollins – tenor saxophone on “5-8”


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