The Modern Jazz Quartet – “Django”

Today (May 3) marks the birthday of pianist and Modern Jazz Quartet founding member John Lewis, who was born in LaGrange, Illinois, in 1920. After moving to New York in the 1940s, Lewis became a member of trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie’s bebop big band, in which he would form partnerships with vibraphonist Milt Jackson, drummer Kenny Clarke and bassist Ray Brown. The group would often play quartet arrangements during breaks from the big band’s set. In the 1950s, these four musicians would reconvene, forming the first iteration of the Modern Jazz Quartet. After a few shifts in personnel, the group would finally hit upon its immortal lineup: Lewis on piano, Jackson on vibes, Connie Kay on drums and Percy Heath on bass. Here’s the group from their classic 1960 album Pyramid, playing a tune that commemorates another one of jazz’s innovators: Django Reinhardt.

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