the Modern Jazz Quartet...
fine music nearly 50 years!
DISCOGRAPHY and HISTORY OF
the MODERN JAZZ QUARTET
IN THE LIGHT OF
MY COLLECTION OF
Nearly 150 recordings (LP's, CD's, Videotapes + DVD's, DVD-R's, commercial, bootlegs and private).
Information checked based on the discography of Milt Jackson by Chris Sheridan, "Bag's Grooves". In autumn 2013 I got sad news that Chris is deceased.
Latest changes are shown in red.
I have been collecting private recordings for many years, too. Here is a list of my private recordings.
I advise you to visit this page occasionally, because I will update it a few times a year.
There exist many (re)issues by various record companies in USA, Europe, Japan and other countries often with another title of the record. Most recordings issued originally on LP are nowadays on CD. Videos are translated into DVD-format. These changes have in many cases resulted in a better sound quality and sometimes bonus tracks have been added. Moreover, there are various collections where MJQ is included. I try to collect all takes, but only once. I am grateful of corrections and comments I have already got.I wellcome all new comments, corrections and information about missing recordings and how to get them.
In the following you will find a list of my collection.
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The Modern Jazz Quartet , shortly MJQ, was the most long-lived and one of the most succesful jazzgroups.Its roots were in the rhythm section of Dizzy Gillespie's Big Band in the end of 40's. The nucleus of the group was the duo John Lewis on piano and Milt Jackson on vibes. With the bassist and drummer of the orchestra the group started to play as a quartet, in the beginning as Milt Jackson Quartet. In 1952 the name was changed to Modern Jazz Quartet. The arrangements of Lewis and his ideas about the style of performing began to influence more and more from the middle of the 50's. Percy Heath was the bassplayer and Connie Kay replaced Kenny Clarke at drums in 1955. These men played together until the end of 1974 when they disbanded for seven years. They rejoined in 1981 and played until the death of Kay in the end of 1994. During 1992-4 Mickey Roker replaced occasionally Connie Kay, who was ill. From 1995 Percy's brother Albert worked at the drums until 1997. On October 9th 1999 died Milt Jackson, 29th of March 2001 John Lewis and 28th of April 2005 Percy Heath--so the possibility to hear them live is over for ever. But their music lives! MJQ has been very succesful also outside the normal jazz audience.
A SHORT HISTORY of MJQ and the LIST of MY COLLECTION of MJQ's RECORDS
1. In the beginning, 1946-52
The roots of MJQ were in the rhytm section of Dizzy Gillespie's big band in 1946. The rhytm section played occasionally for a while to give rest for the orchestra. They liked to play together and they also recorded for Dizzy's label in 1948. Soon the group developed to Milt Jackson Quartet of 1951-52. Besides John Lewis and Milt Jackson the sets included Kenny Clarke or Al Jones on drums, Al Jackson or Ray Brown on bass and Chano Pozo on conga. From this period are the following records:
These musicians are heard on many records of Dizzy's Big Band from that time but the rhytm section is audible only occasionally; listen for ex. CD DIZ'N BIRD at Carnegie Hall (Sept. 29, 1947), LP "Dizzy Gillespie at the Downbeat Club, Summer 1947", Phontastic NOST 7629 and LP's Jazz Showcase 5000 and 5002: Dizzy goes to College, Vol 1 and 2 (Oct. 18, 1947). On the double CD "Algo Bueno, Dizzy Gillespie Story", Definitive Records DR2CD11138, double CD "Dizzy Gillespie Volume 7/8 1946" MJCD 129/130 on CD 2 there is soundtrack of movie "Jivin' in Bebop" and CD "Dizzy Gillespie Volume 9 1946-1947" MJCD 149 Lewis and Jackson are playing with various bass and drum musicians. The date 9th July 1946 is the first one when John Lewis and Milt Jackson were playing together on record. According to some data, Milt was playing with Lewis already 10th of June, 1946, but this is wrong /10/.Another CD in my collection, "The Birth of the MJQ-Milt Jackson" (AVID Records AMSC 769), includes record nr 2 and most of takes with Lou Donaldson + four tracks from the record number 5. At Birdland March 17, 1951, Milt and John played together in Dizzy's septet, which included also John Coltrane. LP OBERON 5100, Trane's First Ride 1951, track 7, and LP Broadcast Tributes 0009, First Broadcasts, Vol 2, tracks 7-9 (one very short). Another items, a double - CD in my collection, "Charlie Parker at Café Society Downtown and Birdland", ember EMBCD 509 (Disc 2, tracks 2-4) and LP "Charlie Parker-Ballads and Birdland", Klacto MG 101, include three tracks (one very short) with Milt Jackson Quartet, (Lewis, Jackson, Heath, Clarke), recorded 1st November 1952 from a broadcast at Birdland. This is probably the last time when the three letters "MJQ" meant the Milt Jackson Quartet. In December MJQ meant already the Modern Jazz Quartet, which recorded for Prestige on 22nd December 1952, record number 5.
2. MODERN JAZZ QUARTET, drummer Kenny Clarke, 1952-55
In the end of 1952 the group (Lewis, Jackson, Heath and Clarke) renamed itself the Modern Jazz Quartet. The group switched on to a more arranged style by Lewis. These records established the MJQ. For a few years Kenny Clarke worked at the drums. But he did not like the style in the longer run. So he quitted in february 1955.
3. MODERN JAZZ QUARTET, drummer Connie Kay, 1955-1994
This quartet started in the first months of 1955. In 1956 MJQ signed with Atlantic record company, which gave Lewis more freedom to realise his ideas. The four men planned together a new image for the group. They started to work co-operatively: Lewis was the musical director, Jackson was the PR man, Heath was responsible for the wardrobe and Kay for the transport. And it worked. The group got possibilities to play at very respected places. They worked together until the end of 1974 and rejoined in 1981.This very elegant and in jazz history exceptionally long-lived group played together until the death of Kay in the end of 1994. Main part of their records as well as my collection is from this period. A new CD in my collection, "Miles Davis, European Tour '56 with The Modern Jazz Quartet & Lester Young", Definitive Records DRCD11294 includes two tracks with MJQ. First with Miles and Lester, on the second one Kurt Edelhagen Orchestra is added to them. From the same concert (Stadthalle, Freiburg, Germany,November 12,1956) is a tune called "Prezology" in a MP3 collection from 2007 including the earliest recordings. Actually this tune is "Bluesology", but is was named "Prezology" on a LP "American Jazzmen in Europe", Vantage LP 512 issued in 70's. On that LP this tune was the only one by MJQ+Kurt Edelhagen Orchester.Some tunes from this concert by MJQ are unissued. In November-December 1959 MJQ played with british musicians Ronnie Ross (baritone sax) and Joe Harriot (alto sax) at 16 concerts in UK. Some private recordings do exist; I have some, see my private recordings list. At least one MP3 downloadable recording of 10 tracks with guests exists: "Modern Jazz Quartet Free Trade Hall Manchester 1959". I thank Rodney Pledge for some music from these UK concerts.Some of the next recordings may be found in different mono and stereo versions. I thank Mr. Bill Bolden for his extensive research in this matter, see ref.13. The National Library of France has some MP3 mono versions on the label BnF. You may find them at Qobuz. Also on Mosaic's The Complete Atlantic Studio Recordings 1955-1964.
B. Disbanded 1974 - 81
According to the discography /10/ MJQ played a few times in 1975 based on bookings before the break-up.
After many requests they rejoined for a concert at Budokan in Japan. As it happened they liked to play together again and so the show went on. On some latest records Connie Kay being ill was occasionally replaced by Mickey Roker. Connie Kay died in November 1994. So, it marked the end of this fine and long-lived quartet's fruitful period in this composition. Some unpublished material may be issued in the future.
4. The last MJQ (1995-1997)
With Percy Heath's brother Albert "Tootie" Heath at drums MJQ continued until 1997, see reference 5 and 8.They realized a concert tour - their last? in 1995. I have some private recordings, MJQ in Tokyo, Warsaw and Rome 1995, (a few CD's and two DVD's) from this period.
5. The Legend is over
But after 9th of October 1999 only the legend stays: Milt plays no more among us. And the time goes by: the originator John Lewis passed away on March 29th 2001.And the last in turn was Percy Heath who died on April 28th 2005. Thanks them all for fine music!
6. The Musicians
- John Lewis was born in La Grange, Illinois, on May 3, 1920. He studied music and anthropology at the University of New Mexico. In 40's he worked with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and others. 1945-48 he worked as the pianist and arranger of the Dizzy's big band and toured in Europe with it in 1948. Being back in USA he participated in Miles Davis' Tuba Band. During these years he pursued advanced studies at the Manhattan School of Music. Outside MJQ his works include film music, solo pianist and director of music festivals and music schools. Notable are his arrangements of so called "third stream music", together with Gunther Schuller. He died on March 29, 2001.
- Milton (Milt) Jackson, "Bags", was born in Detroit, on January 1, 1923. In his young years he played piano, drums and vibraharp. He studied music in Michigan State College. He got a heavy influence from black church music. He played in Detroit clubs, where Dizzy Gillespie heard him 1945. He went with Dizzy to New York, where he played an important role in the bebop- movement. The sextet Dizzy, Charlie Parker, Ray Brown, Stan Levy, Al Haig and Milt was famous.In 40's he worked with Theolonius Monk, Woody Herman, Miles Davis and others. Outside MJQ he made many succesful records as a leader of various groups. He died on October 9, 1999.
- Percy Heath was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, on April 30, 1923. Played violin in the school orchestra. Studied bass few months at the Granoff School of Music in Philadelphia. Soon he was in great demand at all the jazz spots in the town. Howard Mc Ghee took him a part of his sextet in 1947. He worked also with Fats Navarro, Miles Davis, J.J. Johnson and Dizzy Gillespie. He is one of the most recorded bass players in jazz. He died on April 28, 2005.
- Connie Kay (originally Conrad Henry Kirnon) was born at Tuckahoe, New York, on April 27, 1927. His first instrument was the piano. He taught drumming himself and was good enough in his teens to get job with Cat Anderson and then with Lester Young. In 44-45 he played frequently at Minton's along with Sir Charles Thompson and Miles Davis. After that he had various club dates with Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, Stan Getz and others. He rejoined Lester in 1952 and remained with him until 1955 when he joined MJQ. He died on November 30,1994.
- Kenny Clarke was born on January 9, 1914. He took part in the bebop- revolution in 40's. He worked with Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, and Benny Carter. In 1946 he joined Dizzy Gillespie's big band, which toured Europe in 1948. From 1956 he lived in France, where he worked together with Francy Boland, forming Clarke- Boland big band. He died on January 25, 1985.
- Albert "Tootie" Heath was born on May 31, 1935 and he is the youngest of the Heath brothers (the others are Percy and James (Jimmy)). He started with J.J.Johnson in 1958-59. Then he has played in Art Farmer-Benny Golson Jazztet, with Cedar Walton and Reggie Workman, George Russel, Herbie Hancock, Yuseef Lateef and others. In 70's he worked with his brothers forming the group Heath Brothers.
- Granville William "Mickey" Roker was born on September 3,1932, Miami, Florida. First he played drums with R&B bands but was attracted to jazz. From fifties he played with many groups and musicians. In 70s he worked with Dizzy Gillespie. In the 80s he has played in groups led by Oscar Peterson, Ray Bryant, Zoot Sims, Jackson and Ray Brown.
- Alvin Jackson Older brother of Milt Jackson. Played bass on some of the earliest recordings of the "proto-MJQ".
- Ray Brown was born on October 13, 1926 and died on July 2 2002. He became famous with Dizzy Gillespie big band, went on to accompany (and marry) Ella Fitzgerald, became a member of the Oscar Peterson trio, and has subsequently fronted his own groups from the 1970s. He is one of the most recorded bassists in jazz, having made discs with everyone from Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington to Charlie Parker and Stan Getz. He toured with Milt Jackson, with whom he had been playing in the early Milt Jackson Quartet.
- Chano Pozo was born on January 7, 1915 and was killed in a fight in Harlem on December 2 1948. Played with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Carlos "Patato" Valdes among others. On record nr 1 he plays with Milt Jackson Quartet. His carier started in 1947 with Dizzy and he influenced a great deal in mixing Cuban folk music with bebop. Among his features with Dizzy were "Cubana Be," "Cubana Bop," "Tin Tin Deo" and "Manteca".
7. NOTES, MISSING
- Recording "Rose of the Rio Grande", Capitol 1989, mentioned by the second link below is not mentioned in the discography /10/. I thank for a comment of Rodger Skidmore, which confirms the data of the discography, stating that MJQ never recorded for Capitol.
- The same link lists also "In Concert" 1992, SND 379, a double CD is not in the discography
- "Live at Theatre Royal, Bath", BBC Jazz Legends, John Lewis refused permission for this shortly before his death /10/. Private recordings exist, see list of my private recordings.
- The Musical Encyclopedia (in Finnish) , Otava, 70's
- J. Goldberg, Jazz Masters of the 50's, Macmillan Company, 5th printing, 1968
- Roy Wilbraham, MILT JACKSON including recordings made with the M.J.Q, A Discography and Biography, 1968
- Cover texts of the recordings, especially the booklet of the MJQ 40 - box
- Philip Elwood, Modern Jazz Quartet Remembers a Brother in Beat, Review of the Concert at San Francisco Jazz Festival 1995, San Francisco Examiner 15.10.1995 (I thank Digelius Music in Helsinki for a copy of this article).
- MJQ in memoriam, OrkesterJournalen, December 1974, in Swedish
- Farewell To The Quartet,Down Beat First-Person Project, John Lewis Reflects on a Career with, and beyond, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Down Beat, April 2000
- John Lewis 1920-2001,Down Beat June 2001
- Patrick E. Roulet: Milt Jackson, The Creative Genius Behind "Bags Groove", Doctoral Dissertation, University of Washington, 2002. I am indebted to Doctor Roulet for sending me his very informative dissertation. For vibraharpists this should be of immense value.
- Chris Sheridan, Bags' Grooves, A Discography of Milt Jackson, Names & Numbers, The Netherlands, 2006, two wirobound volumes, 566 pages. Size 14,5 x 21 cm. email firstname.lastname@example.org to obtain the discography. It is a comprehensive discography also of all MJQ-records. Includes in addition to all commercial recordings, also bootlegs and private recordings from concerts, radio and TV programs plus movies. Some private recordings may be missing.
- Respectability and The Modern Jazz Quartet: Some Cultural Aspects of Its Image and Legacy As Seen Through the Press. By Carla Marie Rupp. The City College of New York, Department of Music. Fall Term 2010.
- Percy Heath Recalls The Modern Jazz Quartet. By Mark Zwerin 25th November 2003.
- Bill has been in touch with Michael Cuscuna, MD of Mosaic Records. He thinks this music is from original official sources. He agrees that this is a new find and that the track "Venice" on the BnF issue is likely to be matrix 2500 - this might point to the remainder of the tracks being from the same session, that is to say the "lost or destroyed" tapes of 4th April 1957. We have discussed the theory that maybe these tapes were sent as incorrect master tapes to France for their MONO issue (Atlantic had a separate issue policy for France and they did not, at that time, import finished discs for sale in France). Perhaps the original MONO issue has been in the BnF vaults ever since. The mp3 recording on sale at AMAZON sounds like it has been taken from a vinyl record. Cuscuna says he has experienced wrong masters being used before on jazz record issues (Miles Davis - Kind of Blue - for many years incorrect masters as an example).
- Quite comprehensive discographical data of MJQ recordings 1952-1988
- About Lewis and MJQ, Discographies, biography, compositions of Lewis etc..
- MJQ-info and availibility of records. Make a search "Modern Jazz Quartet"
- MJQ in Wikipedia.
updated in January 2017 Olavi Huuska. Minor corrections are carried out without a notice. Previous update was in November 2015.