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The Artistry of the Modern Jazz Quartet

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Album Review

Spanning one of the few transitional periods for the Modern Jazz Quartet when Connie Kay replaced Kenny Clarke as the group's drummer, The Artistry of the Modern Jazz Quartet covers the years from 1952-1955. By this point in the group's career, John Lewis was largely overseeing the quartet's repertoire, penning the bulk of the original material. Indeed, on The Artistry Of, the pianist contributes six compositions to Milt Jackson's one (the excellent "Ralph's New Blues"). The set is balanced out by renditions of the most common of jazz standards in "Almost Like Falling in Love," "I'll Remember April," and "In a Sentimental Mood," and the work of more contemporary artists like Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Rollins. Though the chops of each member are undeniable, the performances are, for the most part, rather reserved, placing technique and group coordination above strong emotion. Lewis' "La Ronde" was an early favorite, and it's easy to see why. Here the all-rhythm lineup is completely locked in, particularly the drums and vibes, and the head packs a punch lacking on much of the material. Jackson balances restraint and umph! on a memorable solo while Lewis responds with excellent bopisms on piano. Two songs later, however, the group are strolling through the awkward "The Queen's Fancy," a composition whose overly sentimental melody line, complete with regal undertones, has faired less well over time. More impressive are readings of "Rose of the Rio Grande" and Lewis' "Delaunay's Dilemma." In 1951, the MJQ had backed Sonny Rollins on a Prestige date, and The Artistry Of finds the saxophonist repaying the favor, lending prime solos to a handful of cuts including his own "The Stopper" and "No Moe." In the end, this album is a fine introduction to the sound and sensibility of the MJQ.

Customer Reviews

Interesting DEE DEE

I never bought this album or listened to this so bye bye amigos


Formed: 1952

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Pianist John Lewis, vibraphonist Milt Jackson, bassist Ray Brown and drummer Kenny Clarke first came together as the rhythm section of the 1946 Dizzy Gillespie & His Orchestra and they had occasional features that gave the overworked brass players a well-deserved rest. They next came together in 1951, recording as the Milt Jackson Quartet. In 1952, with Percy Heath taking Brown's place, the Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ) became a permanent group. Other than Connie Kay succeeding Clarke in 1955, the band's...
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