Modern Jazz Quartet: 1963 Monterey Jazz Festival (2010)
What elevates the MJQ above and beyond classification as your typical bop ensemble are the skills of Jackson. His playing lends a sexy, almost otherworldly quality to the proceedings. Much to the audience's delight, the group conducts a fine reading of his signature tune "Bag's Groove," the mid-tempo take standing out as one of the highlights of the set. Jackson is again featured on the standard "Mean to Me," which starts out as a ballad, but quickly picks up steam and morphs into an up-tempo swing session.
The MJQ also tackles two compositions by Lewis. The album closer "The Sheriff" finds everyone playing with rapid-fire precision, the band obviously motivated by Kay's relentless cymbal work. The other Lewis-penned tune, "Winter Tale," provides the album's most humorous instance. After playing the song, which includes a rhapsodic theme reprised between sections of mid-tempo jamming, Lewis explains that it was written as a tribute to Hungarian music. An audience member quickly yells out "Why?." Lewis responds by simply saying, ..."because it sounds like their music. And I dig them," followed by much laughter and applause.
Fans of the Modern Jazz Quartet will no doubt find this release essential. It shows the prolific group at its absolute best. For new fans, it serves as an easygoing and enjoyable introduction to their vast catalogue.
Track Listing: Pyramid; In a Crowd; Mean To Me; Winter Tale; Bag's Groove; I Should Care; The Sheriff.
Personnel: Milt Jackson: vibraphone; John Lewis: piano; Percy Heath: bass; Connie Kay: drums.
Record Label: Douglas Records