The MJQ forever exuded pure class. Their mode, their manner, their habiliment, everything about the quartet resided in elegance and intelligence. They also revolutionized a considerable pocket of jazz and influenced a hell of a lot of musicians, but those who could match them in any way were few and far between…and still are. This latest treasure trove from the always jaw-dropping Jazzhaus label serves to remind us not of something lost but of that which is rare in any generation or decade or century because it's been over 50 years, and you'll still be very hard put to locate another Modern Jazz Quartet.
The packaging to the Lost Tapes series has always been itself uniform and elegant, exuding the kind of noble antiquarianism one would rightly expect from an enterprise deeply understanding the nature of what it's doing…because they're just as much the connoisseurs of music as their audience and consumers. Nor is it chary with what it unearths, as this CD is +/-68 minutes long, culled from a three-year period of studio takes in Stuttgart and Baden-Baden as well as two live tracks from Jahnhalle Pforzheim. Ah, but there's even more: two songs feature the Kurt Edelhagen Orchestra surrounding the band, and a third has the Harald Banter Ensemble, all constituting the kind of symphonic treatments that sharpened the band's sometimes-hidden, sometimes-blazingly-apparent classical elements. Midsommer, for instance, written by MJQ pianist John Lewis, sounds just like a song Ferde Grofe, himself a piano player, lost out of the Grand Canyon Suite, fluttering from the portfolio and into Lewis' hands.
Should you care to re-assess why Milt Jackson was so hugely influential on vibes, repair to I'll Remember April, where he engages in such speed runs as would make Al DiMeola sweat…and grin from ear to ear. Every note from Lewis and Jackson is perfectly in place as Percy Heath (bass) and Connie Kay (drums) subtly subtly back them up, laying out velvet and ermine for the songs to bed down in. These gentlemen had, it is more than obvious, a consummate love of what they were doing and strove to embody the beauty, intelligence, and decorum jazz music could embrace when it wanted to. If the Modern Jazz Quartet has been equaled in the annals of jazz, I've yet to detect it, and if you look to such modern lions as Wynton Marsalis, you'll see the sartorial side as well as the love of classicalism but not—all due respect to Marsalis' genius—that museum-quality extraordinarily refined musical aspect, a trait that never flagged, faltered, or failed. It's all right here in this disc.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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