In the CD jacket notes, Label M founder Joel Dorn informally, as is his wont, tells the buyers of Collaboration that it is one of his two favorite Modern Jazz Quartet recordings. The other is European Concert.
Now, both albums have been re-released, and Dorn's perseverance and dedication to the highest level of jazz have paid offmore for the listening public than for himself.
For on Collaboration, we do get to hear a superlative recording on which Brazilian guitarist Laurindo Almeida teams with The Modern Jazz Quartet in a rare opportunity. It highlights their cultural sophistication as well as their interests in absorbing musical influences and adapting them to their own unique sound.
Almeida's technically astounding and yet understated style is especially appropriate for the MJQ, which investigates a broad range of music without ostentation or even excessive volume. Instead, these master musicians go about their business by delving into the richness of the jazz/classical, and in this case Latin, influences they have studied and enjoyed.
The idea for combining the MJQ with Almeida started at the 1963 Monterey Jazz Festival, when they were booked to perform jointly. At the time, both the individual and the group were highly popular due to Almeida's involvement with the bossa nova craze as well as the acceptance of the MJQ in concert halls throughout the world. Audiences were puzzled about how to react to these well-dressed musicians who bestowed class and respect upon the jazz music they played. And yet, the audiences were appreciative and plentiful.
Even though John Lewis' "Silver" starts the album, including his changes of meter and mixing of blues with can't-put-your-finger-on-it classical suggestions, emphasis is placed upon Latin references, particularly during the suspensions of meter when Almeida colors the tune. "Trieste" goes even further with the same temperament when the tango feel enlivens it, even as the same meditative pauses occur.
Almeida sets the ominous mood for Lewis' "Valeria," but ironically he doesn't assume center stage until the last three tracks, which feature the works of Brazilian and Spanish composers. Almeida's introduction to Jobim's "One Note Samba" attains a liveliness and yet delicacy that announce to the listener that he possessed total control of his instrument. Even as the MJQ joins in, Almeida's Brazilian guitar backup remains a strong presence that flavors the music. "Foi A Saudade" presents Almeida with the melodic lead in a percolation of engaging lines that combine not so much in counterpoint as in a fabric that creates a layer of sound. And "Concierto De Aranjuez," with its deliberate Hispanic flair, deepens the texture with a minor-keyed unhurried stroll accented by Percy Heath's emotive arco bass work and Milt Jackson's shimmer.
Combining the best of the Modern Jazz Quartet with the virtuosity of Laurindo Almeida, Collaboration fortunately allows us to appreciate their recorded work which might have gone undocumented if they hadn't wrapped up their 1964 tour in the Atlantic recording studio.
Track Listing: Silver, Trieste, Valeria, Fugue In A Minor, One Note Samba, Foi A Saudad, Concierto de Aranguez