Closeted With The MJQ

Blogging is going on the back burner—or maybe a side burner—for a few days while I wrap up an assignment. I am writing the essay and program notes for a seven-CD Mosaic box of the Modern Jazz Quartet’s Atlantic studio recordings from 1956 to 1964. It involves a lot of listening, a lot of interviewing, a lot of work and an enormous amount of pleasure. This video from an MJQ concert in Holland in 1982 underlines the point about pleasure. The piece includes a splendid John Lewis solo, Connie Kay’s irresistible time keeping and at the end, following Milt Jackson’s dazzling vibes passage, something even rarer than the Percy Heath bass solo—what may be a smile from Jackson. Mr. Lewis announces the tune.

Percy Heath’s work before and after that solo brings to mind this Rifftides archive item about the importance of the bass line to understanding the nature of a jazz performance. The first installment of a six-part series, it contains a bonus video from the MJQ and another solo by Percy. I’m told that the Mosaic box will be out in late spring or early summer.

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  1. says

    Congratulations on a golden assignment; you obviously have all the Major Journalism Qualifications required for such a Mosaic Jubilee Quest, this one in celebration of the Masters of Jaunty Quiescence–and accompanied by a striking video clip too. (As MrE jocularly quipped, “I’d give it a 95 on the Much Joy Quotient–it’s all in good time and you can prance to it. But my judicious quorum doubts Milt Jackson quirkily smiled. A mock jet-quick grimace is more likely.”)

  2. Dr. Mike Baughan says

    CLASS-synonym for MJQ-can it be taught to those who follow? So impressive a standard that they set. Mr. Ramsey,you must have an unenviable responsibility in running out of proper adjectives to convey what this group brought to intelligent music forms! That Mosaic Box must be an impressive one when it comes out. MJQ was a bucket list group item that I never fulfilled. Thanks, hurry back,& don’t work too hard!

  3. says

    I can think of so many more things worse than spending several days listening to the MJQ – thanks for the video and the link back to the post about the bassist. I also tend to lock in on the rhythm section when i first sit to listen to music, either on disk or in person, perhaps because I have to hear the heartbeat of the songs to connect.
    Keep up the great work.
    More Jazz Quickly!

  4. Svetlana Ilicheva says

    Could anyone please kindly explain the meaning of the title of this delightful piece. Who or what ‘the golden striker’ is? I’m afraid my poor knowledge of Am.E. fails me here. Am listening to it for the umpteenth time with greatest pleasure but haven’t got any idea of what it is all about. It’s a piece to start the day with, isn’t it? So optimistic and perfectly performed. No wonder,it’s MJQ!
    (From Gary Kramer’s notes for the original vinyl long-playing album of the MJQ’s No Sun In Venice, “…inspired by a familiar tourist sight in Venice: the life-size figures on one of the buildings near St Mark’s Cathedral that revolve around and strike the hours.”—DR)

  5. Jon Foley says

    Even though I have at least half of the stuff scheduled to be in it, I’m anxious for the MJQ set to come out, and so glad that you’re doing the notes. The title of the set indicates that it’s “studio recordings,” but I notice from the Mosaic website that it includes the material from Music Inn, at least part of which is live concert recordings; are the tracks with Rollins and Giuffre going to be included – if you know?
    (The Rollins and Giuffre tracks are included. All of them were recorded in concert. I had a good talk with Rollins about his Music Inn/MJQ experience.—DR)

  6. says

    Is the MJQ collaboration with Laurindo Almeida also included in this Mosaic box set reissue? I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to find a copy of it since my late teacher, mentor and dear friend John Griggs played a vinyl version of it for me almost a decade ago.
    (It is, Ken.—DR)