For a short time in the mid-'60s, the Modern Jazz Quartet were working primarily in Europe and recording for the French division of Philips, with the results coming out in the United States on the MJQ's regular label, Atlantic. There was only one exception to this rule: Place Vendôme, which comprised the collaboration of the MJQ with the Swingle Singers, and which appeared in the U.S. on Philips' American subsidiary through Mercury Records. For Philips, the collaboration must have seemed like an inevitability; Ward Swingle had sung with the Double Six of Paris, which had backed up Dizzy Gillespie who, of course, had led the big band out of which the MJQ was formed in 1952. The Swingle Singers had been jazzing up the music of Johann Sebastian Bach since at least 1963 with phenomenal success, and while John Lewis wasn't quite as into the Bach bag in 1966 that he would be later, his MJQ compositions had long been taken up in European devices such as fugue and the renaissance Canzona. Although Swingle and Lewis agreed to collaborate backstage after an MJQ concert in Paris in 1964, it wasn't until 1966 that the two groups found themselves in Paris at the same time. The resultant album, Place Vendôme, was a huge international success commercially, with the track "Aria (Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068)" -- though then popularly called "Air on a G String" -- charting strongly in Europe and the album easily earning its keep in the U.S., though it did not chart there. Not everyone was pleased; jazz critics savaged the album, the consensus being that a pop vocal group like the Swingle Singers had no business making an album with an exalted jazz group like the MJQ.
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AllMusic Review by Uncle Dave Lewis