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The Modern Jazz Quartet

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 personnel was set. In the early days Jackson and Lewis both were equally responsible for the group's musical direction but the pianist eventually took over as musical director. The MJQ has long displayed John Lewis' musical vision, making jazz seem respectable by occasionally interacting with classical ensembles and playing concerts at prestigious venues, but always leaving plenty of space for bluesy and swinging improvising. Their repertoire, in addition to including veteran bop and swing pieces, introduced such originals as Lewis' "Django" and Jackson's "Bags' Groove." The group recorded for Prestige (1952-55), Atlantic (1956-74), Verve (1957), United Artists (1959) and Apple (1967-69) and, in addition to the many quartet outings, they welcomed such guests as Jimmy Giuffre, Sonny Rollins, the Beaux Arts String Quartet, a symphony orchestra conducted by Gunther Schuller, singer Diahann Carroll (on one piece), Laurindo Almeida, a big band and the Swingle Singers. Although the musicians all had opportunities to pursue individual projects, in 1974 Milt Jackson, tired of the constant touring and the limitations set on his improvising and he quit the group, causing the MJQ to have a final tour and break up. In 1981 Jackson relented and the Modern Jazz Quartet (which has recorded further albums for Pablo and Atlantic) became active again although on a more part-time basis. Connie Kay's health began to fade in the early '90s (Mickey Roker often filled in for him) and after his death in 2001, Albert "Tootie" Heath became his replacement. ~ Scott Yanow
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

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I had the pleasure of driving Milt Jackson to airport after he played at the Montreux Detroit Jazz Festival many years ago. He was the greatest.
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I sometimes suspect that Milt Jackson's function, besides playing the vibes as brilliantly as it was possible to play them, was to keep John Lewis from forgetting that this was jazz.
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koen_mike
First caught the. MJQ in Greenwich Village in the 1950's, could sit in the Village Gate for hours and had the most wonderful musical experience ever
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My interest in Modern Jazz started in the late 50s while in the Air Force/Japan. Collected a cross section of groups which I still play/listen w/even more pleasure.. Most, if not all, are gone now, but they still live in their music that will last for many years to come..!! Thank you Pandora for being.. gds..
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david.bloomf i e l d 8
Dave

The Mozart lover's Jazz group still lives within the memories of those who heard them.
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only Connie Kay played on astral weeks. not to one up you but I guess i kind of did
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I'm not a fan of this kind of jazz, but it's too bad that the reviewer didn't mention that members of the MJQ were session men on Van Morrison's classic Astral Weeks album. They were an outstanding part of the music.
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edempers
Was at a concert in Hammersmith in the 50's...man what an evening...wi l l never forget !!!
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Heared them play this at the Berkshire Music Barn in the 50 's
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JACKSON AGAIN SETTING THE PACE !
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Classy,Class y group..Saw them on Ed Sullivan as a kid,impresse d me as a snapshot of cool,Bill Cosby in Hong Kong, on I SPY, COOL....
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It's love from the sun
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When someone mentions Jazz, MJQ is the first group that comes into my mind. I saw them live at the Terrace in SLC Ut in the early sixties. It seems like yesterday when I hear them again.
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mark.atkinso n 2
I heard these guys on college radio in 1983 while studying late one night. I was impacted and always wondered who they were all these years. Finally crossed paths again thanks to Pandora. Yowza, Yowza, Yowza!!!
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Milt Jackson and Ray Brown are just incredible together, makes my glad to have grown old listening to them
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mijibell
Great sound....
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oh.tortuga.4 3
Lets hear 'Odds Against Tomorrow'. That was a benchmark for me in the 60s... RReed in Port Angeles
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mandokk
Leave a comment…
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I, too, forgot how lovely is their sound and No Sun in Venice is my favorite.
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mgreene972
Great to hear MJQ again!
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ppbebop
One of my very favorite groups. Have been listening since 1959.
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Man, I started listening to MJQ as a student at U. Va. in 1955. How awesome they remain!
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richjazzman
MJQ brings me back to my youth in Brooklyn N.Y.-!
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It was my first album at age 16 and I have the original. The only thing as equally satisfying is their European Windfows with the Stuttgart Symphony Orchestra which I also have.
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dagreer41
The Last Concert was one of my staples in college and grad school (1976-1984) and my friends, who came closest to popular jazz with the Crusaders, Eddie Harris, Weather Report, Tim Weisberg, were always taken in. Then I'd put on some later Basie (Pablo) and Oscar, and added good jazz to many a rocker's playlist.
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itz all good
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This is the only jazz group that I would listen to in my teens. I still remember the pink/gray/wh i t e Django album covered. I finally heard them live for the first time in the early 90s. They are still a favorite of mine.
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I can never hear 'Skating in Central Park' too many times. It sounds soooo much like truly skating. The MJQ truly make beautiful music together. Here's to them!!!! I don't know who Connie Kay is or was, but their tribute to him/her is most moving and memorable.
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I first heard MJQ live at a small art gallery in Grenage Village in NYC in the mid 50s. I sat 6 feet from Kenny Clark and was hypnotized by the expressive spirit of their creativity and music composition. I was 12 and new to jazz. Rock and roll was just coming on the scene but could not compete for my interest. MJQ has moved me ever since.
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Class, nothing but class.
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rritz1957
I simply forgot how great this quartet was (and still is)!
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Waiting For NO SUN IN VENICE The Best
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"The Spiritual- Live"; check it out - 'specially the Vibes! BF.
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MJQ & brought to you by John lewis. Sweet!! BF.
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tony.ricardo . g r e e n
I'm 35. I've discovered all of this great music in the last few years. I notice that most of the people making comments are older. Introduce your grand kids to it if you can. Not enough people have an appreciation for this great music. Hampton,Desm o n d , B.Evens and MJQ are great places to start.
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coot42
I first heard this group in 1956, while in medical school, and I've collected everything they recorded.
Their music has delighted me on many occasions since then, both recordings and live performances as well.
They are "modern", but also classic and classy!
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true tom l...heard them in person twice..wish had been more-- matchless.
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tomshare
No one has equalled MJQ's ability to present music with clarity and haunting simplicity.
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aaw2004
Creativity has changed through the years...insi p i d . . . s u g a r y . No one has been able to match or excel the artistry of MJQ.
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martinherse
Milt Jackson is definitely a great artist of the vibraphone!
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Swank!
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As a kid back in the late 50's I remember them playing "Doodling" it was one of my favorites. Where is it now?
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walmo1331
MJQ At Music Inn with Jimmy Giuffre has got to be a highlight. Bought this album when in HS and wore it out. "Sundance" was awesome. AJQ tried but noone could match the sound and style of Milt and friends.
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I recently had the pleasure of introducing MJQ's recordings to an acquaintance new to jazz. I burned him four discs, one of which is all MJQ, and though he initially preferred a Smooth Jazz disc with artists such as Fourplay and Bob James, I have noticed that the quartet's music is steadily rising in his estimation - repeated listenings do seem to be especially rewarding with this group.
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Just great. I remember buying the album Pyramid in high school. Django was my favorite.
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martinherse
Nice vibes
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ahhhh sooo relaxing, beuatiful stuff.... hmmmmm
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so much fun.
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They don't get any better
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joankuchie
I didn't discover the MJQ until they reunited in the '80's, but I got to see them live and up close at the Blue Note in NYC many times. My favorite album is No Sun in Venice, and I even named my beach house "One Never Knows". Thank goodness for technology so that their musical genius lives on!
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