The Magic of Jazz | MJQ

Listen to the audio version of this read by Claudia


So often when people think of jazz, images of the 1920s, or a Miles Davis solo come to mind. For me, however, jazz brings me back to my teenage days in New York City. While my friends were running off to Grateful Dead or Billy Joel concerts, I found myself in the downtown jazz clubs of NYC.

My guide was jazz lover and a future renowned player of this very music, the pianist Peter Smith. At 16, we would sit in the dark clouded rooms soaking in the abstract, moody and freewheeling sounds, always seeking special performances. It was all groovy – until I was blown away at the Blue Note one evening. There, we were lucky to catch one of the last shows of the group Modern Jazz Quartet, or the MJQ.

Formed officially in the 50’s, the MJQ were, in my opinion, the kind of musicians that transformed a room when they played. From the moment they hit the first note, everything in the room melted away, as I drifted on the clouds of the vibraphone, soothed by the bass and led on a musical escapade by the harmonizations . The MJQ made the kind of iconic sound that could fill both prestigious classical music halls and in-the-know downtown clubs.

Their sound speaks to the spirit – a kind of harmonious welcome home. Listening and watching them play, they were a perfect reflection of my young self – the possibilities, the chaos taking perfect shape – the solos that let each person shine. The music held all the same possibility as my future.

The MJQ still inspires me and takes me through melodic stories. Their sound is the inspiration for the intros of my audio on these compendium posts. Music and sound imprint the day and tell a story directly to the heart – how lucky I am to have these jazzy stories in mine.