Having sponsored Ornette Coleman at the School of Jazz near Lennox, MA, pianist and composer John Lewis helped launch the controversial career of one of the last great innovators in jazz. Lewis' support of the ragtag Texas native was somewhat unique in jazz circles at the time and even surprising, especially considering the gulf between the classical jazz formality of his group the Modern Jazz Quartet and Coleman's radical notions of free improvisation. Nevertheless, Lewis not only saw in Coleman the first jazz genius since bebop's Parker, Gillespie, and Monk, but put pay to the praise with the MJQ's 1962 rendition of one of Coleman's most famous numbers, "Lonely Woman." (Along with Art Pepper's 1960 version of "Tears Inside," this was one of the earliest of Coleman covers done.)
The 1962 Atlantic album of the same name turns out to be one of the band's best efforts. Lewis and fellow MJQ members Milt Jackson, Percy Heath, and Connie Kaye capitalize on the dramatic theme of "Lonely Woman" while adding a bit of chamber music complexity to the mix. The quartet doesn't take Coleman's free form harmolodic theory to heart with a round of quixotic solos, but the group does spotlight the often overlooked strength of his compositional ideas. And while the MJQ further plies its knack for involved pieces on Lewis originals like "Fugato" and "Trieste," the group also balances out the set with looser material more in tune with Jackson's blues and swing sensibilities.
A great record that's perfect for the curious jazz lover. Stephen Cook/AMG
Review: Paul Rigby (The Audiophile Man), June 2016
Oh, Pure Pleasure has picked a doozy here. More than that, if you are a fan of classical works and have sometimes wondered about jazz but have never dived into its rich harmonic depths then this LP might just be for you because the first track is a sumptuous blend of both genres and for exciting reasons. Firstly, the title track offers a chamber orchestra take on this jazz track, formalising the jazz structures. Not only does the MJQ offer the music sober and serious respect, they decide to choose one of the very earliest Ornette Coleman covers to do it with. Coleman was one of the last of the great individuals of jazz and was supported in his exploratory works by MJQ’s own John Lewis. The innovating of the man’s playing may not be wholly recognisable here, on this track, but it does reveal that Coleman was on the money in terms of his compositional talents. In many respects, it took Lewis to reveal to the world this important side of Coleman.
Released in 1962 on the Atlantic label, this album also features Milt Jackson, Percy Heath and Connie Kaye and, after the title track and apart from Why Are You Blue, the first track on the B side, tackles a host of Lewis originals such as the light, energetic, low key yet rhythmic Animal Dance that offers a welcome relaxation to the strict adherence of the title track. You can hear Jackson’s influence on many of these originals: the man refuses not to swing, if you catch my drift.
In terms of mastering, Pure Pleasure offer a beautifully quiet pressing with a a low volume master that yearns for you to up the gain on your amplifier to grab as much detail as you can. Easy of the ears and easy on the heart, this LP sweeps over you and gently pins you to your chair.
Personnel: Milt Jackson, vibraphone / John Lewis, piano /Percy Heath, bass / Connie Kay, drums
Side A: 1. Lonely Woman 2. Animal Dance 3. New York 19 4. Belkis
Side B: 1. Why Are You Blue 2. Fugato
3. Lamb, Leopard (If I Were Eve “Original Sin”) 4. Trieste
Re-mastering by: Ray Staff at Air Mastering, Lyndhurst Hall, London
Supervised by Neshui Ertegun
Recording supervision by: Phil Iehle & Tom Dowd
Recorded in 1962
Cat No: PPAN SD1381
Format: 180 gram LP x 1 standard sleeve
Scheduled for release March 2016
Supervised by Neshui Ertegun
Recording supervision by Phil Iehle & Tom Dowd