Modern Jazz Quartet

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The Modern Jazz Quartet (or MJQ for short ) was an American jazz formation .

History of the group

The group - emerging from the Milt Jackson Quartet - was founded in 1952 by John Lewis ( piano ), Milt Jackson ( vibraphone ), Percy Heath ( double bass ) and Kenny Clarke ( drums ). Jackson, Lewis and Clarke formed the rhythm section of the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band from 1946 to 1950 - originally with Ray Brown - and initially passed the time playing music together during lengthy wind rehearsals. Then the quartet was featured as a band within the band when the Gillespie Orchestra performed (which played while the winds took a break), but also performed as the Milt Jackson Quartet , with Heath replacing Brown. When the four musicians re-formed the Modern Jazz Quartet as a cooperative band in 1952 , the collaboration between the previous main soloist Milt Jackson and John Lewis, who now became musical director and main composer, changed.

As early as 1954, the group won the Down Beat Critics' poll for the best combo recording of the year. Kenny Clarke left the group in 1955; he was replaced by Connie Kay . In 1957 they were on their first European tour and gave 88 concerts there until 1958. a. also an appearance at the Donaueschinger Musiktage (album Donaueschingen Jazz Concert ). This was followed by guest tours through Japan and Australia and then annual worldwide tours. The quartet split up again and again for “holidays” so that the members could also work on other projects and groups.

In the summer of 1974 the group separated, but continued to give concerts, for example in Germany and at Carnegie Hall . The band got back together in 1981 and played in Germany in 1990. One of jazz's longest-running combos eventually ended with the death of Kay in 1994 (Jackson died in 1999, Lewis in 2001, and Heath in 2005). Her last recording was released in 1993.

Importance and cooperations

The group's success was partly due to the opposing natures of Milt Jackson and John Lewis: While Jackson was an instinctively playing blues-oriented musician with an expansive, bubbly style of playing, John Lewis was a subtly swinging academic who played economically throughout. The recognition of the MJQ is also based on the unique combination of cool jazz and European-influenced chamber music with fugues (e.g. on Vendôme and Concorde ) and other classical forms, which, especially in Europe, attracted many people into the concert halls who had never before Heard jazz. The Modern Jazz Quartet also contributed to the development of the Third Stream in various projects, particularly in the 1950s .

The original compositions of the group include Afternoon in Paris and Django by Lewis (homage to Django Reinhardt ), Bags' Groove by Jackson (who was called "Bags"), The Golden Striker (from the album No Sun in Venice 1958, the music for film of the same name by Roger Vadim ), Delaunay's Dilemma (for Charles Delaunay , on the album Django ) by Lewis.

They also recorded with the Swingle Singers ( Place Vendome ), with Sonny Rollins , Jimmy Giuffre , Paul Desmond and Laurindo Almeida, and with the New York Chamber Symphony (1987). For the 40th anniversary of the formation they played (documented on A 40th Anniversary Celebration ) with guests such as Bobby McFerrin , Wynton Marsalis or Phil Woods .


The group recorded first with Prestige Records and then for Atlantic Records , interrupted by two albums in the late 1960s for the Beatles label Apple Records ; after the reunification there was initially a contract with Pablo Records . The list contains the authorized album editions, but not singles, EPs and compilations; Live recordings published much later are also missing. The year of admission is given. In some cases, the year of publication (if known).

  • Modern Jazz Quartet (1952–1953), Prestige Records
  • Concorde (1955), Prestige (the first with Connie Kay dr)
  • Django (1956), Prestige
  • The Modern Jazz Quartet (1956), Atlantic
  • Fontessa (1956), Atlantic
  • Django (1953–1955), Prestige
  • At Music Inn (1956), Atlantic
  • The Modern Jazz Quartet (1957) Atlantic
  • At Music Inn Vol.2 (1958) Atlantic (also Sonny Rollins with the MJQ , OJC)
  • Lost Tapes: Germany 1956-1958 ( Jazzhaus ; ed. 2016)
  • Music from ›Odds Against Tomorrow‹ , United Artists (1959)
  • Pyramid (1959-60), Atlantic
  • Third Stream Music (1957–1959), Atlantic (with Jimmy Giuffre , Jim Hall , Gunther Schuller , the Beaux Arts String Quartet )
  • The Modern Jazz Quartet & Orchestra (1960, ed. 1961), Atlantic
  • European Concert (1960 initially on two separate LPs), Atlantic
  • Lonely Woman (1962), Atlantic
  • The Comedy (1960-1962), Atlantic
  • The Sheriff (1963), Atlantic
  • A Quartet is a Quartet is a Quartet (1963), Atlantic
  • Collaboration. The Modern Jazz Quartet with Laurindo Almeida (1964), Atlantic
  • Plays George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess (1964-1965), Atlantic
  • Jazz Dialogue with All-Star Big Band (1965), Atlantic
  • Concert in Japan '66 (1966), Atlantic
  • Blues at Carnegie Hall (1966), Atlantic
  • The Swingle Singers with the Modern Jazz Quartet Place Vendôme (1966), Atlantic
  • Live at the Lighthouse (1967), Atlantic
  • Under the Jasmin Tree (1967, ed. 1968), (Apple Records)
  • Space (1969), (Apple Records)
  • Plastic Dreams (1971), Atlantic
  • The Legendary Profile (1972), Atlantic
  • In Memoriam (1972), Little David
  • Blues on Bach (1973), Atlantic
  • The Complete Last Concert (1974, ed. 1988), Atlantic
  • Reunion at Budokan 1981 (1981), Pablo
  • Together again - Montreux 1982 (1982), Pablo
  • Echoes (1984), Pablo
  • Topsy: This One's for Basie (1985), Pablo
  • Three Windows (1987) Atlantic
  • For Ellington (1988) East West
  • MJQ & Friends: A 40th Anniversary Celebration (1992-93) Atlantic
  • Dedicated to Connie (1960, ed. 1995), Atlantic
  • MJQ 40 , 4 CDs, Atlantic (compilation)



  • Wolfram Knauer Between bebop and free jazz. Composition and improvisation by the Modern Jazz Quartet. Mainz: Schott 1991.
  • Martin Kunzler : Jazz Lexicon. Volume 1: A – L (= rororo-Sachbuch. Vol. 16512). 2nd Edition. Rowohlt, Reinbek near Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-499-16512-0 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. See for all recordings and publications Modern Jazz Discography (
  2. z. B. the 1953 radio recordings with Ben Webster , which were published in 2001 under the title 1953: An Exceptional Encounter .
  3. (including Bags' Groove )
  4. (with, inter alia, Versailles )
  5. (initially as Modern Jazz Quartet Vol. 2 or Concorde , from 1956 under the current title)
  6. on three titles with Jimmy Giuffre
  7. with Sonny Rollins on two titles
  8. ^ Film soundtrack
  9. with Vendome
  10. Orchestra conducted by Gunther Schuller and Werner Heider
  11. with studio orchestra under the direction of Maurice Peress
  12. double CD. Initially published separately under the titles The Last Concert (1975) and More from the Last Concert (1981)
  13. With The New York Chamber Symphony