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Release datum:
The Modern Jazz Quartet 40th Anniversary Tour
Jazz-Gipfel, Stuttgart, 1992

John Lewis (Piano)
Milt Jackson (Vibraphone)
Percy Heath (Bass)
Mickey Roker (Drums)

Kammerorchester Arcata Stuttgart
Patrick Strub

Three Windows (12:25)
Sketch (7:15)
Alexander’s Fuge (6:40)
Adagio from Concerto de Aranjuez (11:50)
A Day In Dubrovnik (20:12)

Release Dates
Re-release in Europe: March 2006
First release in the USA and Canada: March 2006

Item Code (NTSC)


TDK presents yet another concert highlight from this famous quartet - certainly one of the most longstanding groups in jazz: The Modern Jazz Quartet. After their live recording in Freiburg at the legendary Zelt-Musikfestival in 1987 (available on TDK DVWW-JMJQ35), this DVD shows quite a different side of the MJQ:

On tour for their 40th Anniversary, the four jazz giants stopped in Stuttgart for the “Jazz Gipfel” 1992, where they were joined by the Arcata chamber orchestra, directed by Patrick Strub. As Pianist John Lewis’ compositions had long been influenced by his affinity for the so-called “Third Stream” between jazz and classical music, this seemed an apt celebration.

The MJQ existed from 1952 to 1974, and again from 1981 to 1995. Over the years it took such deep root in the consciousness of jazz fans that, quite irrationally, one could believe in the immortality of its members. The past few years have proved us wrong: all four members of the quartet have died, the last was Percy Heath in 2005.

The fortieth anniversary of the Modern Jazz Quartet in 1992 was celebrated all round the world. Long-serving drummer Connie Kay was sadly missing on the occasion. By 1992 he was already seriously ill and had to be replaced by Mickey Roker on the tour. However, the renowned Philadelphian drummer, who had partnered all the jazz greats, including Dizzy Gillespie, fit in perfectly with the other three.

This filmed recording provides some explanation of the group’s long-lasting success. The combo took great trouble, with their elegant clothing and their serious appearance, to set standards for stage presence. However, this did not make their music any less genuinely jazzy. The idea was to make jazz “presentable in society” and win over lovers of classical music, who warmed to Lewis with his love of fugues and other classical forms. He played with the conviction that jazz was of equal value – and deserved equal respect in society, the same concert halls, the same attentive public – as so-called “serious music”.

The concern felt for a sick drummer and friend, the regret at his absence on such a festive occasion, are almost visible on screen.
The artists’ faces show more than their customary seriousness and concentration. Rather than his usual “cool” face, Jackson wears a somewhat melancholy expression even when his playing is lively and spirited and Lewis sometimes seems at bit ill at ease. Bassist Percy Heath, who was to outlive the others by many years, however, sports a laid-back, benevolent smile. In spite of their obvious sadness, the musicians repeatedly produce amazing flights of solo brilliance during the concert.

As jazz specialist Marcus A. Woelfle notes in the accompanying booklet, “it is a constant pleasure to hear the interplay between such contrasting musicians and see them “at work” together. Lewis is the man of proportion, of Classical discipline. And yet, though “Bags” (Jackson) was the more soulful, more spontaneous musician of the two, his tendency towards abundance and rich ornamentation could well be termed Baroque. If he was an instinctive performer, a full-blooded trouper with a generous, effervescent playing style, then John Lewis was also a quiet and restrained pianist with the aura of a professor – no note is played without forethought; none is superfluous, his awareness of the essential has been learned from Bach.”

The Stuttgart concert takes off with Three Windows, a title from the film score to the film “No Sun in Venice”. After an introduction by the jazz musicians the orchestra joins in, they are finely tuned into the swing of the piece. The piece Sketch that follows was originally written for the MJQ and a string quartet. Here it is performed in a version for string orchestra and, in the third piece, Alexander’s Fugue, the wind players join the group. The slow movement of the classical Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez – adapted for jazz by Miles Davis - allows the orchestra to play a full, symphonic role.

The concert took place during the Croatian war of independence. Musicians and listeners alike were well aware of the terrible devastation that had been wrought in Dubrovnik in the previous year by thousands of Serbian grenades. In a time of destruction, the MJQ sent a signal of hope with its concert and raised a monument to beauty when they chose A Day In Dubrovnik as their final piece (to be heard without orchestra on the “35th Anniversary Tour” TDK DVD). Lewis, who was married to the Croatian harpsichordist Mirjana Lewis, took his inspiration from the Venetian Antonio Vivaldi and from Istrian Giuseppe Tartini, whose birthplace was not far from Dubrovnik: “The piece tries to give an impression, first of ‘Afternoon’, when the great tour ships arrive and people from other lands encounter this beautiful Renaissance city. The second part is ‘Evening and Late Night’, when one feels the serenity of Dubrovnik. Finally, there’s the impression of the busy ‘Morning’ life in this most charming city. Dubrovnik was an important city on the Adriatic in the way Venice was, but whereas Venice is all color, Dubrovnik is all white marble, beautifully preserved.”