The Modern Jazz Quartet

The Modern Jazz Quartet at Music Inn, Vol. 2

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The second volume of the Modern Jazz Quartet at the Music Inn was released in 1959, a year after its historic first volume with guest Jimmy Giuffre. The format on this set is similar, with pianist John Lewis, vibraphonist Milt Jackson, bassist Percy Heath, and drummer Connie Kay moving through a gorgeous medley of standards to open including "Stardust," "I Can't Get Started," and "Lover Man," with beautiful and clever counterpoint between Lewis and Jackson on the melody lines. There are two of Lewis' originals here as well. The first is the wry, spare "Midsömmer" that begins atmospherically, with sparse lines played by Jackson that reverberate as Heath's bowed bass underscores them. When Lewis enters, the melody unfolds tenderly and thoughtfully. It's a ballad of tension and textures. Lewis' penchant for classical architecture permeates the tune, though it swings gently as well, with Kay's brushed cymbals and gracefully caressed hi hat. "Festival "Sketch," at a little over three-and-a-half minutes, takes a counterpoint melody and generates a skittering swing tune out of it. As on the previous volume, the Modern Jazz Quartet are joined by a guest for the final two cuts; ace saxophonist Sonny Rollins digs in on both the classic "Bags Groove," composed by Jackson, and Dizzy Gillespie's bebop anthem "Night in Tunisia." Both tunes are rooted in blues grooves. Rollins understands the MJQ's use of tension and dynamics beautifully. His big, warm tone above Lewis and Jackson on the former is sweet, relaxed, and in-the-pocket. On the latter, the knotty melodic frame is played a little slower, but is a tough fingerpopper nonetheless, with Rollins playing accents in the opening vamps and the just gliding into his big bluesy solo. This is a welcome addition to volume one, and a larger study in contrasts given Rollins propensity to really blow, as opposed Giuffre's lower key approach on the first volume. To say that this set works is an understatement. It is a highlight of the group's storied career on Atlantic.

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