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Modern Jazz Quartet

Biography

These innovative cool jazzers, who in their forty years of ensemble playing never enlisted a regular horn player, focused on thematic development through classically influenced writing. They also wrote several important jazz standards, including "Django" and "Bags' Groove." Bags was the nickname of vibraphonist Milt Jackson, who adapted Bebop styles to the vibes. But the most original jazz concepts in the group came from the group's pianist, arranger, and bandleader, John Lewis. Lewis was a student of European chamber music, and in his arrangements he attempted to blend classical counterpoint and fugue with jazz improvisation. The band even released an album of compositions by J.S. Bach. Like many classical composers, Lewis enjoyed writing music on themes from traditional theater, composing a series of sketches of the stock characters from the Commedia dell'Arte. The Modern Jazz Quartet captivated jazz and classical audiences until the death of drummer Connie Kay in 1994.

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