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United States Music

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Author Topic: United States Music  (Read 29609 times)
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« on: August 22, 2012, 03:35:13 pm »

John Lewis:  Jazz Ostinato

John Lewis recording at the Broadcast Studios in Geneva on July 5th-6th, 1972
(Photo courtesy of Jean-Jacques Becciolini, Zürich)

Modern Jazz Quartet
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
Max Rudolf, Conductor
January 1967
Private Recording of live performance, (Venue unspecified, but the MJQ and CSO played Carnegie Hall that  month)

From the collection of Karl Miller

I'd clearly rank this work as a very successful "Third Stream" outing.  Although I'm a pretty big jazz fan, I didn't know much about the MJQ,, but I guess I'm going to have to learn more about them.  Lewis's participation in the "Birth of the Cool" Nonet (with Miles Davis and Gil Evans) already makes him of interest to me.

Following from Michael Furstner's Jazz Class website:

JL 1 - John Lewis and the Modern Jazz Quartet
John Aaron Lewis was born in La Grange (Ill.) in March 1920 and sadly passed away recently in March 2001.   He grew up in Albuquerque (N.Mex.), and started playing the piano when he was seven.   Lewis studied anthropology and music at the University of New Mexico until 1942 when he joined the Army. In the Army he befriended Kenny Clarke, a prominent Bebop drummer.

After the war, in 1946, Clarke introduced Lewis into the Dizzy Gillespie Band as arranger and pianist.  Lewis also started at the Manhattan School of Music. He included voice lessons in his curriculum and completed two degrees , developing a special interest in Renaissance and Baroque music (counterpoint).
Through Clarke, Lewis joined the nine piece Miles Davis Capitol recording group in 1949.

The Rhythm section of this group became the nucleus from which in 1952 the Modern Jazz Quartet was formed.
The Modern Jazz Quartet consisted of : John Lewis, piano - Milt Jackson, vibraphone - Percy Heath, bass - Kenny Clarke, drums. In 1955 Clarke was replaced by the quieter and more appropriate drummer Connie Kay.

Initially known as the Milt Jackson Quartet, John Lewis soon took over as musical director of the group and the name was changed to the Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ).

The group played together for 22 years (until 1974), and is arguably the most successsful ensemble in the history of Jazz.

MJQ has been the main, though by no means only, vehicle for John Lewis' compositions and arrangements.

In Jazz his compositions are unique, as they commonly combine the element of Classical form with the Traditional Jazz element (largely lost in modern Jazz) of collective improvisation. The fugue is Lewis' favourite form. He uses it very effectively to integrate written lines with single and collective improvisations.    

Leonard Feather wrote in the 'Encyclopaedia of Jazz' :
"John Lewis is regarded as one of the most brilliant minds ever applied to Jazz. Completely self-sufficient and self-confident, he knows exactly what he wants from his musicians, his writing and his career, and achieves it with an unusual, quiet firmness, coupled with modesty and a complete indifference to critical reaction. Though many of his more ambitious orchestral works have only a peripheral relationship to Jazz, he believes that the Jazz elements in his background have contributed to everything he has done."

As an instrumental soloist, Lewis has been described as :
" a unique and invariably moving Jazz pianist. His touch is sure and delicate, his ideas are disarmingly simple and honest. He has a rhythmic sense and enough technique to allow him easy freedom."

In the 50's and 60's the MJQ played a major role in making Jazz 'respectable' to many 'serious music' listeners in Europe. In the winter of 1957 alone the MJQ played 88 concerts in four months in Europe and England.

John Lewis once described his music as 'economical and transparent'.

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All download links I have posted are for works, that, to  my knowledge, have never been commercially released in digital form.  Should you find I've been in error, please notify myself or an Administrator.  Please IM me if I've made any errors that require attention, as I may not read replies.

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