It is not news that J.S. Bach influenced John Lewis. The Modern Jazz Quartet pianist and his wife Mirjana recorded two-keyboard albums of pieces by Bach, and many of Lewis’s compositions for the MJQ contain harmonic and fugal elements that are direct reflections of Bach. The Baroque master introduced into music so many structural, rhythmic and harmonic aspects beloved by jazz players that Dave Brubeck, among others, said if Bach had lived in the 20th century, he would have been a jazz musician.
Whether the adagio movement of the Violin Concerto 2 in E Major and Lewis’s celebrated “Django” share technical elements, I will leave to the analysis of musicologists. However, it seems beyond doubt that they have common spiritual DNA. Here is the young violinist Kyung Wha Chung in 1982 with the second movement of the Bach.
Now, let’s hear the MJQ—John Lewis, Milt Jackson, Percy Heath and Connie Kay—in a slightly eccentric, brilliant, performance of “Django” at the Zelt Musik Festival in Freiburg, Germany in 1987. It doesn’t take the MJQ long to get the unruly audience’s attention.
For an appreciation of Django Reinhardt, some of his music and a fresh take on Lewis’s “Django” by bright young stars of 21st century jazz, see this recent Rifftides post.