The New Modern Jazz Quartet...
It is hard to not compare this Classical Jazz Quartet to the Modern Jazz Quartet. They both have the same format of outstanding individual superstars, they both have a major leaning toward classical music. Most listeners might not even be surprised or offended if the CJQ popped out "The Cylinder" or "Django." But, alas, while comparable, they are not cut from the same cloth. And, this is good for the listener, for we now have a second great piano-vibes-bass-drums lineup to listen to.
To date, the Classical Jazz Quartet, a band comprised of Kenny Barron, Stefon Harris, Ron Carter, and Lewis Nash, has devoted its attention to interpreting the Classical Music Repertoire. The brainchild of producer/arranger/sax master Bob Belden, The Classical Jazz Quartet is the working end of Belden’s fertile plan for classical music cum jazz. The group released Tchaikovsky’s "The Nutcracker" last year on Vertical Jazz Records. This recording also was forged by the arranging imagination of Belden with mostly good results.
Belden and the group now turn their attention to some well-anointed selections from the book of J.S. Bach. In a very savvy move, the group performs the choral "Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring" to hook the listener for the remainder of this very fine disc. Stefon Harris is the youngster in the group, but plays with the information and intelligence of a chronological peer of the rest of the group. As was Milt Jackson in the other quartet, Harris is somewhat a centerpiece, changing the tone and timbre of his instrument at will and with the conventional wisdom of the rest of the band.
While Ron Carter is the elder and leader in this band, the CJQ are all equals and perform as such. At a time when the Modern Jazz Quartet is now a part of history, it is so nice that another, brilliantly different quartet emerges to not only partially fill the void made by the loss of the other, but to also expand and evolve the original’s vision.