The eight sides on this long player are derived from the the Modern Jazz Quartet's (MJQ) earliest sessions for Prestige Records after splitting from Dizzy Gillespie's musical coterie. Milt Jackson (vibraphone), John Lewis (piano), Percy Heath (bass), and Kenny Clarke (drums) immediately exemplify their unique brand of erudite post-bop on this collection, which is evenly split between Lewis originals and interpretations of popular standards. Modern Jazz Quartet, Vol. 1: With Milt Jackson (1954) is presented chronologically with the first four cuts taken from December 1952 and include "All the Things You Are," "La Ronde" -- a variation on Gillespie's "Two Bass Hit" -- "Vendome," as well as Duke Ellington's "Rose of the Rio Grande." Right out of the gate, the instrumentalists are uniformly exceptional. Their history allows them to create a comfortable exchange behind the occasional solo from Jackson or Lewis. Their second outing was held in June 1953 and continues with the same dimension of seemingly effortless interaction. "The Queen's Fancy" is a Lewis number that draws from the same fugal inspiration that gave "Vendome" such refined elegance. The final Lewis tune on this platter is the buoyant "Delaunay's Dilemma." The melody exemplifies both the author's penchant for vivacious and freewheeling swing and the MJQ's equally inimitable ability to curve around the tricky corners and syncopation. The pair of covers concluding this title are resplendent in their respective serenity, especially Jackson's intonations on "Autumn in New York." They shimmer like dusk in Central Park around Lewis' sporadically dizzy runs, which conjure images of a multi-hued, leaf-strewn landscape. "But Not for Me" coalesces firmly as Jackson once again drizzles sublime improvisations over the otherwise compact rhythm section.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer