Paper Example on Harmonious Rhythms: Exploring a Jazz Concert with the Modern Jazz Quartet

Published: 2023-10-11
Paper Example on Harmonious Rhythms: Exploring a Jazz Concert with the Modern Jazz Quartet
Essay type:  Reflective essays
Categories:  Music Culture
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1205 words
11 min read


Listening to music is uplifting and especially for those who can appreciate the composition and instruments used to bring the music to life. Jazz music can be characterized as a rhythmic and instrumental type of music, and mostly from the African-American background. It is described to have been developed by African American Musicians and possess energetic rhythms in addition to characteristic improvisation (Rupp, 2011). The course requirement involved selecting a jazz concert YouTube video from the list. My selection was the concert by Modern Jazz Quartet in Japan in 1981. The paper describes the concert observation experience of listening to a jazz performance by the Modern Jazz Quartet.

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Introduction of the Jazz Concert

The concert was live at Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan. It happened in October 1981 and featured the Modern Jazz Quartet which is referred to as one of the most beautiful Quartets of all time (Lewis et al., 2017). The concert took two days which was October 19 and 20 in 1981. The jazz ensemble together performed seven pieces during the two-day concert. The parts are considered stylistically different and hence provided the audience with varied experience of jazz music. The ensembles that performed the concert are the members of the Modern Jazz Quartet, and they include John Lewis, Percy Heath, and Connie Kay. They play different instruments with Milt Jackson performing the vibes, John Lewis plays the piano, Percy Heath plays the bass and Connie Kay the drums.

Performance Space and Stage Presentation

The first noticeable thing when you begin to watch the video of the concert is the impeccable way the Modern Jazz Quartet conducts their presentation. It seems like they are following a specific program. The stage arrangement is that of a semicircle which appears to appeal to the audience (Lewis et al., 2017). The style of presentation by the groups seems to adhere to a program that is directed by all members in an alternating manner as they explain the musical numbers on the stage. After a musical number is played and the audience applauds, the four gentlemen would together bow in unison. Another noticeable presentation factor the Quartet’s respectable dressing (Rupp, 2011). It, therefore, means that the presentation underscored the live concert.

Description of the Performance

Before watching the video, I researched the members of the group, establishing that each member had their area of expertise. These included the Percy Heath as the bassist, Connie Kay as the drummer, Milt Jackson as the vibra-harpist, and John Lewis as the pianist-composer. They together developed a style that came to be referred to as the cool jazz. It is as a result of quality ensemble precision, controlled emotional environment and a focus on compositions that sought to link European art music to the jazz improvisation (Lewis et al., 2017). The concert by the Modern Jazz Quartets played seven numbers which are; Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise, The Cylinder, Really True Blues, The Golden Striker, The Jasmine Tree, Bag’s Groove, and Django.

“Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise” was written by Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II and composed as a tango. The Modern Jazz Quartet played an instrumental version of the song making it enjoyable jazz. The piano played by John Lewis alternated with the vibe mixing the melody as though dancing softly in the sunrise. The four gentlemen played in a serene harmony, and not one single instrument seemed superior to the other. The ensemble was supplementing each other until the music concluded. The next song on the program was the “Cylinder” written by Milt Jackson with Percy Heath and Connie Kay. It seemed to be more upbeat compared to the first song. Jackson leads the way as the vibra-harpist, and the other follows in harmonious melody. During this Jackson solo, Lewis is heard playing with D-flat at the start. Then Jackson is can strongly be heard on the vibe. The ensembles even smile as they move from one note to the next. At the end of the song, the audience applauds the performance and the ensembles smiles and bows, respectively.

The third song in the concert program is titled “Really True Blues” which is an original composition by the Modern Jazz Quartet. After listening to the first two compositions, the introduction of the “Really True Blues” sounds relatively higher, and you could feel the levels being reduced (Lewis et al., 2017). The deep groove of Percy Heath can be heard which is followed by Connie Kay’s sound on the cymbal. It then transitions to Milt Jackson having his vibraharp solo while Lewis provides support with the chords. The fourth composition is the “The Golden Striker” which starts with a soft base from Lewis followed by the usual Jackson’s improvisation with the chords. Heath then throws a pedal bass line which is supported by sweet rhythm from the cymbals by Kay. The composition can be heard gaining momentum as the theme is repeated by the ensembles and even through the solo by Jackson. For a moment, Lewis plays a solo, which is concluded a collective improvisation. Other notable compositions in the concert include “Bag’s Groove” and “Django”. Jackson and Lewis try to uplift the mood by rhythmic notes.

Listening to the concert enlightens on the understanding of the working dynamics of the group. John Lewis sounds quite soft-spoken and plays what could be considered as a soft, simple style of piano (Lewis et al., 2017). Milt Jackson commands quite an influential figure on the vibraharp. He has a blue style playing combined with a chromatic fluency. Percy Heath is a powerful rhythmic bassist throughout the performance producing the exact correct notes at the right time. The style on the drums of Connie Kay is unmatched. It is a soft style, and he sets sounds with brushes on the cymbal producing a powerful sound. It can, therefore, be concluded that they are a great ensemble strengthened by a telepathic rapport.


The jazz concert by the Modern Jazz Quartet was an enjoyable watch of great music and intellectually stimulation. The experience started with the presentation of the ensemble. The dressing code of black suites gave an impression of respect and professionalism. They also conducted themselves in a professional manner in which they had cordial respect for each other in addition, respecting the audience. Another critical aspect was the way they complimented each other in the performances. In case of a solo play, others would play in support. Overall, the concert was quite interesting than I anticipated. It gave me novice ideas on how live performances should be, and I hope to attend live concerts one day.


Lewis, J., Jackson, M., Heath, P., & Kay, C. (2017, December 19). MJQ MODERN JAZZ QUARTET LIVE IN JAPAN 1981 Softly As In A Morning Sunrise Jasmine Tree Django [Video]. YouTube.

Rupp, C. M. (2011). Respectability and the Modern Jazz Quartet; Some Cultural Aspects of Its Image and Legacy As Seen Through the Press Aspects of Its Image and Legacy As Seen Through the Pre.

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Paper Example on Harmonious Rhythms: Exploring a Jazz Concert with the Modern Jazz Quartet. (2023, Oct 11). Retrieved from

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