Picks and Pans Review: Three Windows

updated 07/27/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/27/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The Modern Jazz Quartet with the New York Chamber Symphony

PLAY LOUD, the gleeful advice commonly printed on LP jackets by bands that wear studded dog collars, ought to appear on this album—by four guys whose studs fasten starched collars on ruffled shirts. Only when the volume knob twists clockwise does the textural richness and ingenious integration of quartet and orchestra come across fully. The MJQ is often compared to a jewelled watch—quiet, precise and delicate. A Big Ben that swings is a bit closer. One thing that makes these four inimitable voices—John Lewis on piano, Milt Jackson on vibes, Percy Heath on bass and Connie Kay on drums—sound big is the conviction they give each highly focused, cleanly articulated tone and animated line. An unamplified jazz quartet without a horn could be swamped by a 19-piece string orchestra. Yet on Three Windows the MJQ not only holds its own but sounds bigger than ever. The quartet's surefootedness is one reason; another is the technically superb recording that marks the MJQ's return to Atlantic after an absence of 13 years. Add to this John Lewis' deft orchestration. The five pieces, most of them familiar from concerts or earlier albums, have been resketched on a larger canvas that blends the orchestra, whole or in sections, with the quartet—allowing for intimate exchange as well as emphatic declaration and dance. The vibrancy of the strings—no corn syrup here—mates well with the MJQ. Django, A Day in Dubrovnik, Kansas City Breaks—in fact all the pieces—are consummately structured odysseys that traverse the blues, Slavic melody and spine-tingling counterpoint in the course of 51 minutes. Turn up the volume. Your neighbors will thank you. (Atlantic)

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