The Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ) was a jazz combo established in 1952 that played music influenced by classical, cool jazz, blues and bebop. For most of its history the Quartet consisted of John Lewis (piano), Milt Jackson (vibraphone), Percy Heath (double bass), and Connie Kay (drums). The group grew out of the rhythm section of Dizzy Gillespie's big band from 1946 to 1948, which consisted of Lewis andJackson along with bassist Ray Brown and drummer Kenny Clarke. They recorded as the Milt Jackson Quartet in 1951 and Brown left the group, being replaced as bassist by Heath. During the early-to-mid-1950s they became the Modern Jazz Quartet, Lewis became the group's musical director, and they made several recordings with Prestige Records, including the original versions of their two best-known compositions, Lewis's "Django" and Jackson's Bags' Groove". Clarke left the group in 1955 and was replaced as drummer by Connie Kay, and in 1956 they moved to Atlantic Records and made their first tour to Europe.
Under Lewis's direction, they carved their own niche by specializing in elegant, restrained music that used sophisticated counterpoint inspired by baroque music, yet nonetheless retained a strong blues feel. Noted for their elegant presentation, they were one of the first small jazz combos to perform in concert halls rather than nightclubs. (Read more at Wikipedia)
Links to Peel
Peel's somewhat ambivalent attitude to jazz is illustrated by his comments when playing his favourite Modern Jazz Quartet, track, "The Golden Striker", on a 2002 show; : "I remember buying that record when I was a kid and thinking it was fantastically cool because all of my friends hated it." This may have been another example of him going against the views of his jazz-loving fellow pupils at Shrewsbury School, who had belittled his enthusiasm for Earl Bostic - although he may have left school by then.
The track was released in 1958 as part of the soundtrack LP for the French film Sait-on Jamais (One Never Knows or No Sun In Venice), directed by Roger Vadim, who had made his name by directing Brigitte Bardot in And God Created Woman, the film which established Bardot as a star. Today, the soundtrack LP of Sait-on Jamais is better remembered than the film, but in 1950s Britain, French films were considered provocative and risqué, so the teenage Peel may have been prevented from seeing it due to an "X" certificate. Whether he bought the LP, or a single or EP, isn't known, but "The Golden Striker" did become a lifetime favourite, from early plays on Night Ride to an appearance in the Peelenium 1957.
Apart from that, Peel played some tracks from an album the MJQ made in 1957 with saxophonist Sonny Rollins and a track from 1956 with multi-instrumentalist Jimmy Giuffre, but otherwise seemed to ignore their work, even after they signed with the Beatles' Apple label in the late 1960s and issued a couple of new LPs. By then their style was a little out of fashion, but their fortunes revived in latter decades and their records were played regularly on the BBC's jazz programmes, if rarely by Peel.
Festive Fifty Entries
Other Shows Played
- 07 December 1982: A Morning In Paris
- 04 December 1984 (with Sonny Rollins): 'The Stopper (LP-Sonny Rollins with the Modern Jazz Quartet)' (Ojc)
- 20 February 1985: (with Sonny Rollins, featuring Art Blakey and Kenny Drew): Shadrack (album - Sonny Rollins With The Modern Jazz Quartet) Prestige PRLP 7029
- 05 October 1999 : ‘The Golden Striker’ Peelenium 1957
- 14 November 2000: The Golden Striker (EP - One Never Knows) London
- 18 April 2002: The Golden Striker (soundtrack LP – No Sun In Venice) Atlantic (JP: "I remember buying that record when I was a kid and thinking it was fantastically cool because all of my friends hated it.")
(Please add any missing info)