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The Modern Jazz Quartet

The Modern Jazz Quartet comprised John Lewis (1920—2001), Milt Jackson (1923—1999), Percy Heath (1923—2005) and Connie Kay (1927—1994). The group was established in 1952, with Kenny Clarke on drums; Connie Kay joined in 1955, and the line-up remained stable until their final recordings four decades later. The MJQ released over 40 albums: the majority for Atlantic Records, but in 1968 and 1969, they recorded two highly-rated albums for Apple, Under The Jasmin Tree and Space. The later was produced in London under the auspices of Apple’s first head of A&R, Peter Asher.

It was always the MJQ’s purpose to bring jazz to the masses, to make it more accessible. To that end the members wore sharp suits and instead of the smoke-filled clubs that were traditional outlets for live jazz in America, they played concert venues such as Carnegie Hall. The Modern Quartet achieved their aims in terms of crossover appeal, particularly in respect of ‘third stream’ music, in which they blended classical compositions with their distinctive brand of restrained, improvised bebop.