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Modern Jazz Quartet Original recording remastered


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  • Sample this album Artist (Sample)
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Amazon.com: HASH(0x9a47d7b4) out of 5 stars 1 review
HASH(0x9a47e774) out of 5 stars Seminal music, probably a must for Bags fans 1 Dec. 2012
By Giuseppe C. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This recording is earlier than I had initially imagined--mostly music by the "Milt Jackson Quartet" with Kenny Clarke on drums, recorded 1951-1952 (with one track from 1949 and another from 1954). This is the MJQ before Connie Kay replaced Clarke, and before John Lewis assumed major responsibilities for the group's library, arrangements, presentation, even bookings. The audio quality is "close" to high-fidelity standards, if just a bit too "dead" to qualify for such a description.

The only voice that occupies the listener's attention throughout is that of Milt Jackson, who swings as hard as ever and is especially on fire when the song form is a 12-bar blues. There are only two small groups in the history of jazz that endured long enough (apart from several piano trios) to qualify as "long-standing": the MJQ and the Dave Brubeck Quartet. The changes in the music of the MJQ are less noticeable and significant than those of the Brubeck-Desmond ensemble (Paul died in 1976, but the Quartet goes on to this day). The upshot is that a listener might have as few as 3-4 albums by the uniform--and uniformly excellent--MJQ to have a "representative" collection of their music. With the addition of drummer Connie Kay (mid-'50s) and the greater musical ownership of John Lewis, Milt Jackson's role would give way, both in terms of solo time and in the counterpuntal melodies of the ensembles, to the piano of John Lewis and, to a lesser extent, the bass of Percy Heath. As a result of this change, the group would become even more engaging, with Bags' awaited free-swinging solo spots supplying much of the group's "heat" while Lewis' Baroque structures provided the "light." Otherwise, there were few truly significant, or dramatic, developments in the music of the MJQ (not even wardrobe changes) between 1953 and beyond.

The Brubeck Quartet is another story. Paul Desmond may not have been steeped in the music of Charlie Parker, but he was capable of being a fiery, pyrotechnical player, quoting generously from Prokofiev and the blues while playing with incendiary spirit on one session (the Fantasy concert album,: Jazz at Oberlin, and cool, low-heat sultriness on the next: Jazz: Red Hot & Cool. Somewhat like the Lewis-Jackson contrast, Brubeck-Desmond played off of each other, but totally differently. Customarily, it was Brubeck who played with "masculine" thunder and lightning to Paul's feminine liquid and lyrical alto tones. In contrast, with the MJQ, piano took the gentler, more submissive role to the dominant, always imminent, explosiveness of Bags' vibes.

Of these players, Brubeck and Desmond are among the least imitated in jazz--their voices were simply "sui generis," utterly unique, inimitable. As for the ensembles, neither group has had any imitators worthy of mention. Pick up a later album for both Jackson's extraordinary playing as well as the complementary economical contributions of Lewis Modern Jazz Quartet (1957) ; with Brubeck and Desmond, on the other hand, it may require at least ten albums by the quartet to possess anything like a "representative" collection of their music. (Forget the sterile and formulaic "Time Out" album in favor of the live conceerts: At Carnegie Hall.)
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