It has been one of those pluperfect mornings in the hills. The early morning chill of 12C (around 54F) was quickly dispersed by the brightness of the rising sun as it quickly ascended the crests of the range of low hills to the east. The condensation on the leaves and blades of grass always look magical with the refractions caused by the rays of light – shimmering prisms with each change of the viewing angle. The early walk with the dogs is done, with the added bonus of catching my first glimpse for this year of the Pied Thrush (Zoothera wardii) a beautiful black and white speckled bird – a winter visitor and quite uncommon. I head back inside, still feeling the chill but with the realization that a hot mug of coffee will just about hit the spot. WorldSpace has The Modern Jazz Quartet going on RIFF, the superlative Jazz station. John Lewis on piano, Milt Jackson on vibes, Percy Heath on bass and Kenny Clarke on drums – what a group! Java joins me for coffee as we get into the music.

Hey maan, yo know dese cats have bin playin wit a whole bunch of dem Jazz greats? Yeah, Clarke be playin with Thelonius Monk, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and den he introduce John Lewis to Dizzy and dey both start to play wit Dizzy Gillespie and den a few years later joined da late great Miles Davis for som recordin sessions. John Lewis, he be classically trained and be getting heavy into dat Baroque sheet – speshully da fugue form an he have two compositions in dat Miles Davis sessions album. Dis be in da late 40s, when Milt Jackson also be doin som recordin, but wit odders. Dey form MJQ in 1952 and made som albums, an den in 1955 Kenny Clarke split from da group an Connie Kay replace his ass.

I’m wondering where Java got all the detailed information from, as although we’re both huge MJQ fans, I had no idea…!

I check dem liner notes maan – dose antique vinyl dics shuurre have som good infomashun dere. Wanna know what ma maaan Leonard Feather wrote in the ‘Encyclopaedia of Jazz’? He say:
 
“John Lewis is regarded as one of the most brilliant minds ever applied to Jazz. Completely self-sufficient and self-confident, he knows exactly what he wants from his musicians, his writing and his career, and achieves it with an unusual, quiet firmness, coupled with modesty and a complete indifference to critical reaction. Though many of his more ambitious orchestral works have only a peripheral relationship to Jazz, he believes that the Jazz elements in his background have contributed to everything he has done.”

Leonard Feather is a pre-eminent Jazz critic. We turn WorldSpace off and get ‘Django’ on – John Lewis’ composition dedicated to the great gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt. Brilliant!

Yo know maan, dis Milt Jackson, jus check out his vibraphone runs an sequences – sheeet! Bes ting bout dis cat is how he combine dose bluesey-mergin-to-swing counterpoint to Lewis’ Baroquish sheet. Dose fugues soun so much cooler wit Milts mallets ripplin over dem – what yo call dem ‘keys’ on dat vibe maaan? Do dat have a speshul name? Yo don know eider? Chimes? Maybe dat Lucifer dude can tell us huh? Annyways, dis cat has bin credited by som for doin what started dat whole ‘funk’ or ‘soul’ trip – dose rhythms an ‘feel’ he bring to dat sound jus be sooo mah-fahing soulful!

Java takes a break to do his ‘thing’ and soon that special aroma fills the room. It’s time for brekkers and the dogs are starting to nudge me for their token morning milk – old habits die hard! The sun has really warmed the morning up and everything is crystal clear – outside, as well as within the inner spaces. The feeling is unadulterated joy at just being so lucky to savour it all.

Advertisements