Master's Theses

Date of Award

2011

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Music

Abstract

"The Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ) was a noted jazz ensemble whose original members—John Lewis (piano and director), Milt “Bags” Jackson (vibraphone), Ray Brown (bass) and Kenny “Klook” Clarke (drums)—first performed together in Dizzy Gillespie’s big band in 1946.1 Lewis (1920-2005), Jackson (1923-1999), Brown (1926- 2002), and Clarke (1914-1985) first recorded as a group, calling themselves the Milt Jackson Quartet, in 1951-2. By the time the first recordings of the group under the name Modern Jazz Quartet were released in 1952, Percy Heath (1923-2005) had already replaced Brown as bassist. By 1954, the group had begun performing regularly in nightclubs and concert halls. Drummer/percussionist Connie Kay (1927-1995) replaced Clarke in 1955. The personnel of Lewis, Jackson, Heath and Kay established the MJQ as one of the longest surviving jazz groups in history—more than 40 years.2 The MJQ could boast of having “the most permanent personnel in jazz history.”3 After the death of Kay, several drummers—such as either Mickey Roker (b.1932) or Albert “Tootie” Heath (b.1935), a brother of Percy Heath—briefly filled the vacancy at clubs and concerts between 1995 and 1996. The most complete history of the MJQ is found in the archives of the Institute of Jazz at Rutgers University, Newark. The group’s history that follows--which includes a number of firsts for a jazz group--is taken from these archives, primarily from MJQ’s own promotional listings on file at the Institute. I have selected some of their accomplishments and summarize them here, decade by decade, as a background for this essay. "

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