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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



Joan Records

MODERN JAZZ QUARTET

‘Portrait’

Sabam CRESCENDO

Blue Classic Line – 7260

 

 

1

Milano

8

One Bass Hit

2

Vendome

9

La Ronde Suite

3

All The Things You Are

10

The Queen’s Fancy

4

La Ronde

11

Delaunay’s Dilemma

5

I’ll Remember April

12

Autumn In New York

6

All Of You

13

But Not For Me

7

Django

   

All the tracks on this welcome compilation were made in 1952 at a time when the MJQ were ‘scuffling with spasmodic gigs’ and trying to succeed on their own terms. Within a couple of years they became established; then followed some twenty years of immense national and international popularity. Here is featured the original line-up of John Lewis – piano, Milt Jackson – vibes, Percy Heath – bass and Kenny Clarke – drums; in 1955 Clarke was replaced by Connie Kay.

The MJQ, enjoyed public popularity rather than unchallenged peer admiration and many jazz commentators dismissed their general output as ‘Bach-goes-to-town’ chamber music. Having said that the great jazz essayist Whitney Balliett wrote of the MJQ, ‘it also revealed a strong distaste for musical cant and it immediately countered through its own superb example all the dreary practices that had begun to appear in jazz (the long, windy solos, the insane tempos, the show-off rhythms and the vacuous ensembles)’

The five or so ‘jazz standards’ are executed in grand fashion and the musicianship is of the highest standard – these are the tracks that would initially attract any newcomer to the music of the MJQ. The remainder of the disc is devoted to the style of music for which the group is most well remembered. Point, counter-point and baroque are all present and the various textures in pieces such as ‘The Queen’s Fancy’ exemplify how, in both arrangement and execution, attention has been carefully given to the way each member of the group can ‘feed off’ the others and also how the quartet performs sympathetically as a whole. Overall this collection of music is one of the many important facets in the general development of jazz and surely has a place in any collection.

Jack Ashby



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