Joe´s Music Rack
Part of

The Modern Jazz Quartet
At Music Inn
Volume 2

Modern Jazz Quartet
Guest Artist: Sonny Rollins

Modern Jazz Quartet - The Modern Jazz Quartet At Music Inn Volume 2 Modern Jazz Quartet - The Modern Jazz Quartet At Music Inn Volume 2
33GModern Jazz Quartet1

Atlantic Records...1299...[1959]...33 1/3 LP...Stereo

Side 1
1) Medley:...8:17
........ Stardust - Hoagy Carmickael/Mitchell Parish...NTG
........I Can´t Get Started - Vernon Duke/Ira Gershwin...NTG
........Lover Man - Jimmy Daris/Roger "Ram" Ramirez/Jimmy Sherman...NTG
2) Yardbird Suite - Charlie Parker...5:15
3) Midsömmer - John Lewis...7:03

Side 2
1) Festival Sketch - John Lewis...3:34
2) Bag´s Groove - Milt Jackson...8:35
3) Night in Tunisia - Dizzy Gtllespie/Frank Paparelli...6:57

Modern Jazz Quartet - The Modern Jazz Quartet At Music Inn Volume 2 Modern Jazz Quartet - The Modern Jazz Quartet At Music Inn Volume 2


Modern Jazz Quartet

The Modern Jazz Quartet At Music Inn Volume 2

"... Music which is both created by the players and fully shaped by the composer". These words, written by the British jazz critic Francis Newton about Duke Ellingron and his orchestra, apply with equal accuracy to Modern Jazz Quartet and its composer John Lewis. Though the Quartet is guided and dominated artistically by John, each player in it is able to contribute creatively — one is tempted to say compositionally — to the final result in a manner almost non-existent in jazz since the great days of the Ellington band.

The varied talents of the four players have been blended into a well-defined single concept through years of musical and personal maturing together. For those who like such comparisons, the MJQ has brought into jazz the traditions of the great string quartets of our century. As with any chamber music group that plays and lives together over any length of time, the main problem is to survive the stresses and strains — the necessary give and take — that develop out of the virtues and failings of the individual members. If an ensemble can endure this fire-baptism, so to speak, it can face purely musical problems with confidence. The musical excellence of Modern Jazz Quartet is in a large measure founded upon a complete understanding of each member´s personal and musical characteristics. Through many years of working together, a complex, subtle relationship has developed which permits each player to be completely himself, at the same time adapting himself quite instinctively and naturally to the specific talents (and needs) of the other members.

The Quartet has achieved this symbiotic fusion to such a remarkable degree, that it can take material like the ballads on this record and make it wholly its own in a very special way. For as they play, we hear not merely a performance, but actually a form of recomposition. In this particular case, as an added fascination, John and Milt apply their unique talents via simultaneous improvisation — an aspect of jazz performance sorely neglected for some thirty five years. The rambling, discursive nature of their playing reminds one of a highly intelligent, animated conversation. There are wonderful moments as the piano and vibe lines intertwine in the same register, causing delightful, subtle clashes that are the height of contrapuntal ingenuity — all the more intriguing because they are spontaneous. Notice, too, how the ornate opening and closing glissandos frame the Medley like a parenthesis.

In Yardbird Suite John skillfully states Parker´s thematic material in fragmentation. Each fragment appears in single or unison lines in various instruments, disconnected from its predecessor, as if suspended in silence. Gradually the music becomes more continuous, the fragments overlapping like clouds drawing together in a threatening sky. This imaginative introduction then gives way to a virtuosic stop-time chorus by Milt (and Connie), in turn leading to two choruses by John which feature his familiar light touch and melodious continuity. A chorus, in which Percy and Connie reiterate material from the introduction, modulates to an abbreviated solo by Milt. Instead of finishing with the final eight bars, John brings things to a halt with a quick series of canonic imitations based on the first ten notes of Parker´s memorable theme.

Festival Sketch, recorded here for the first time, is, besides Midsömmer, the only outright composition by John Lewis on this record. Again the introduction attracts us with its characteristic modesty and simplicity, at times no more than implying the underlying harmonies. The extemporized sections are examples of the unique mastery with which both John and Milt control their musical inspiration. On the ballads we heard simultaneous improvisations; i.e. John no longer merely accompanied, but played melodic extemporizations or equal importance to Milt´s lines, if we might call this a kind of "maximum participation" with the soloist, we could call what John does behind Milt on Yardbird Suite — simple " 'comping" chordal backgrounds — "minimum participation".

Now on festival Sketch John presents us with several subtle gradations between these two opposites. For here he plays melodic groups that are more than mere background ´comping, and yet are not quite full-fledged improvisations on a level with that of the vibes. Listen to the effortless manner with which John switches from this intermediary kind of extemporization to feathery-light chord accompaniments without the slightest loss of continuity. And listen too, if you will, to how naturally and effortlessly the group swings, especially at the beginning of John´s chorus. My only complaint is that these solos and this piece are much too short. With characteristic modesty, John adhered to the implications of the title; it was intended only as a sketch.

Midsömmer was originally composed for a nine-piece group and first performed at a concert in Town Hall in 1955. It has since been orchestrated for symphony orchestra (and thus recorded), and here we find it adapted to the needs of the Quartet. Once more John has fragmentized the original expositional material, and has concentrated primarily on the improvised sections. Both Milt and John play with extraordinary warmth and a haunting lyrical quality that extracts the essence of this nostalgic musical picture. Among the many special moments in this performance, I would single out the beautiful touch and singing quality of John´s piano after the introductory fragments (and after Connie switches from triangle to cymbals), and the sublime interlacing lines that John and Milt devise in a later section based on a chromatically descending chord progression. In listening to this track, it also occurred to me that I had seldom heard the piano tremolo — the old stand-by cliche of every movie house and bar room pianist — used so effectively and with such sensitivity.

Sonny Rollins´ prodigious creative talent and great instrumental mastery are too well known to need re-emphasis here. The two sides which bring Sonny together with the Quartet were recorded during a concert at Music Inn in Lenox, Massachusetts in August 1958, and mark the first meeting on records of these musicians since 1953.

Sonny was in one of his more whimsical and sardonic moods that night. On both tracks we hear him playing around with little motives, toying with them and his instrument — almost as a cat will with a mouse — spoofing and kidding, at times facetious and at others pleasantly jocose. Sonny´s unwavering insistence on being funny produces a very interesting by-play of reactions in the Quartet. Milt and Connie buckle down to some real great, swinging playing, — Mill especially in his own Bag´s Groove and Connie in Night in Tunisia. Percy occasionally joins the fun, as in Bag´s Groove, where he plays, for instance, a typical "oom-pah" bass line whith could be, except for its funky swing. Straight out of some hotel band.

John´s reactions are more complex. In Bag´s Groove, when Rollins enters with humorously disjointed parodies of Milt´s theme, John prods him soberly with beautiful sustained chords. After three choruses he realizes that -Rollins will not be swayed, and "joins in" with little discordant semi-tone "bleeps", which later he develops into a relentlessly building, insinuating rhythmic figure, which Sonny finally can no lunger resist. He almost becomes serious for a few choruses, only to return eventually to the prevailing punning mood.

John Lewis is known far and wide as one of the more serious and staid members of society. But it may not be amiss to point out in connection with the above remarks, that John is also a serenely happy, optimistic individual. And these qualities are reflected in his music and in the music of The Modern Jazz Quartet — it seems to me, especially so on this record - This explains to a great extent why the music of the MJQ gives so much pleasure. Much has been said about John Lewis´ musical erudition, his logical mind and non-compromising character. But it seems to me, not enough has been said about the sheer charm of his music; the fact that it is a continuous aesthetic pleasure — beautiful, if you will — happy, optimistic, well-adjusted music. And I think therein, beyond all musicological and technical considerations, lies the secret of the success of Modern Jazz Quartet.


(By Hoagy Carmickael & Mitchell Parish; Mills, ASCAP.)
(By Vernon Duke & Ira Gershwin; Chappell, ASCAP.)
(By Jimmy Daris, Roger "Ram" Ramirez & Jimmy Sherman: Pickwick. ASCAP.)
(Total time of Medley: 8:17)
(By Charlie Parker; Atlantic, BMI. Time: 5:15)
(By John Lewis; MJQ Music. BMI. Time: 7:03)
(By John Lewis; MJQ. Music, BMI. Time: 3:43)
(By Milt Jackson: Wemar Music. BMI. Time: 8:35)
(By Dizzy Gillespie & Frank Paparelli; Leeds, ASCAP. Time: 6:57)

Modern Jazz Quartet
John Lewis, piano; Milt Jackson, vibraharp: Percy Heath, bass: Connie Kay, drums
plays the Medley, Yardbird Suite, Midsömmer & Festival Sketch.
Guest artist Sonny Rollins, tenor sax, joins TheModern Jazz Quartet on Bags' Groove & Night In Tunisia.

* * * * * *

Recording engineer: Tom Dowd
Cover photo: Clemens Kalischer
Cover design: Marvin Israel
Supervision: Nesuhi Ertegun

This is a high fidelity recording. Transfer from master tapes to master lacquers is made on Ampsx Model 300 Tape Recorder, Scully Variable Pitch Lathe, and Cook Lateral Feedback cutterhead. The variable pitch control of the Scully Lathe widens the grooves for loud passages and narrows them during quieter sections, saving cutting space on the record and forming the light and dark patterns that can he seen on the surface of the pressing. The finest vinylite compound is used, and the records are pressed on the new Boomer type presses. For best results observe the R.I.A.A. high frequency roll-off characteristic with a 500 cycle crossover.

* * * * * *

Sonny Rollins appears by arrangement with MGM Records.
The recordings at Music Inn were made with the special permission of Philip & Stephanie Barber. Since 1957, the School Of Jazz, founded by the Barbers & John Lewis, has conducted jazz courses at Music Inn during regular summer semesters. The Vacuity of the School Of Jazz is composed of many of the greatest names in jazz music.


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