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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove



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MODERN JAZZ QUARTET

Bluesology
The Atlantic Years 1956-1988

Warner Jazz 034979883

 

 


CD1
1. Bluesology
2. The Golden Striker
3. Bags' Groove
4. De Capo
5. Vendome
6. Django
7. England's Carol
8. Lonely Woman
9. Animal Dance
10. The Sheriff
11. Bachianas Brasileiras
12. Walkin' Stomp
13. Precious Joy
14. For Ellington

CD2
1. A Fugue for Music Inn
2. Fun
3. A Night In Tunisia
4. I Remember Clifford
5. Midsommer
6. Winter Tale
7. Softly as in a Morning Sunrise
8. Round Midnight
9. Skating in Central Park
10. Blues in the Bergerie
11. Romance
12. The Trip


Milt Jackson - Vibes
John Lewis - Piano
Percy Heath - Bass
Connie Kay - Drums 

Guests
The Jimmy Giuffre 3 - Track 4, CD1
Symphony Orchestra conducted by Gunter Schuller - Track 7, CD1
Jimmy Giuffre (clarinet) - Tracks 1 and 2, CD2
Sonny Rollins (tenor sax) - Track 3, CD2


Many of us have already got a lot of these tracks in our existing record collections, but with CD1 covering the period from 1956 to 1990 and CD 2, 1956 to 1972, there are almost certainly some new tracks for everyone. I was not originally a big fan of the MJQ, but their music has stood the test of time very well. Immaculate performers they certainly were and whilst the outstanding musician is Milt Jackson, the rhythm section provides top-class support and John Lewis also contributes some fine piano solos. The quartet was at its best when not trying to be too clever: Lonely Woman sounds just as bad when the MJQ play it as it did when recorded by the composer Ornette Coleman!

Tempos and time signatures did not faze them in any way; they could handle all that stuff with ease. Occasionally they lapsed into an almost classical quartet sound, but that was all part of their persona - like their tailed coats and formal dress. Precious Joy is a good example of this, being based on a Bach chorale and arranged for the quartet by John Lewis. It contains little jazz but is a very pleasing sound.

The very "woody" sound of Jimmy Giuffre's clarinet is heard on the first two tracks of CD2. His style fitted in with the quartet rather well. I am informed that the slightly different clarinet sound he had came from his choosing to play an A clarinet, mostly only used by classical players. Another guest, this time Sonny Rollins, appears on Dizzy Gillespie's A Night in Tunisia; he sounds very comfortable playing with the band on this 1956 track. Milt Jackson's solo which follows Sonny Rollins is also first-class.

I Remember Clifford was written by Benny Golson to commemorate the death of brilliant young trumpet player Clifford Brown and the quartet offer it the sympathetic treatment it deserves. Tracks 5 and 6 of CD2 come from a live concert recorded in Tokyo, Japan in 1966.

I liked their version of Softly as in a Morning Sunrise: it has always been a nice tune to play and once again Milt Jackson shows just what a star of the vibes he was. John Lewis had a real flare for composition as his Skating in Central Park theme well demonstrates. A large amount of the MJQ library came from John's writing for the band. Tracks 10 and 11 of the second CD both have some additional musicians in support who are not named, these and the exciting last track The Trip all come from the Plastic Dreams sessions recorded in NYC in 1971.

I enjoyed hearing all this. The tracks I have heard before were like hearing from old friends again and the tracks I have previously missed were, with one exception, all a pleasure.

 

Don Mather       



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