“The Modern Jazz Quartet: 35th Anniversary Tour” featured
a 1987 concert given at the International Music Festival in
Freiburg, Germany. This 57-minute DVD contained a set of
seven songs including such classics as “Summertime,”
“Kansas City Breaks,” “Echoes,” and “Rockin’ in Rhythm.”
The John Lewis composition, “A Day in Dubrovnik,” was
performed as an encore.
This classic lineup of pianist John Lewis (1920-2001), double
bassist Percy Heath (1923-2005), vibraphonist Milt Jackson
(1923-1999), and drummer Connie Kay (1927-1994) played
with their typical sophistication and taste, exhibiting a formality
uncommon in a Jazz setting. In fact, these musicians were
performing actual arrangements using scores, which was a
departure from the Jazz standard practice of improvisation.
I was very pleased with the impeccable results and impressed
with the spot-on intonation demonstrated by Percy Heath,
which I don’t take for granted from Jazz double bassists.
Milt Jackson provided most of the solos, supported by a
subtle counterpoint from John Lewis on piano. Drummer
Connie Kay never took a solo spot, and was relegated to the
background. He joined the group in 1955, replacing
Kenny Clarke (1914-1985).
This was my first visual exposure to this legendary ensemble,
and I was glad to see them. It was a no-frills production,
but none the worse for being so.