"The Modern Jazz Quartet was one of the longest lasting groups in Jazz Music. The group was a co-op but pianist John Lewis was the musical director. Milt Jackson on vibes was the major solo voice in the group and bassist Percy Heath was the anchor and drummer Connie Kay provided the rhythmic colour. Lewis and Jackson had met in the legendary Dizzy Gillespie small and big bands of the 1940's. Ray Brown on bass and drummer Kenny Clarke were also members of Dizzy's aggregation and the four began playing together on their own. They first recorded under Milt Jackson's name in 1951 for a small label with Ray Brown but Brown had other plans and he was replaced by a young Percy Heath for the next couple of dates. It was in the summer of 1952 that it was decided to make the band a co-op and The Modern Jazz Quartet was born. They made their first recordings for Prestige in December 1952 as The Modern Jazz Quartet. It was a real co-op with everyone sharing the finances and each member had specific duties. John Lewis was the musical director, Jackson was it's outstanding soloist and Heath and Clarke had their duties as well. The only change came in mid-1955 when Kenny Clarke resigned and Connie Kay (Conrad Henry Kirnon) was brought in on drums. Mr. Kay remained until his death in November 1994. He was replaced by various drummers such as Mickey Roker and later Albert Heath (Percy Heath's brother) but the death of Milt Jackson in October of 1999 marked the real end of the Modern Jazz Quartet. They were one of the longest living permanent Jazz groups in the history of this music that maintained a stable personnel over the years. Tonight's Jazz Feature was to be their last concert and end for the MJQ. As history will prove, the group got back together after a hiatus from late 1974 until 1981 and from 1981 until the death of Milt Jackson in 1999, The Modern Jazz Quartet was active. This evening's recording is a major event because it was supposed to be the end of the group as we knew it. The music took on an almost magical aura as this supposedly marked the end of one of the longest surviving permanent Jazz groups in the short history of this music.
The date was November 25, 1974 and the "final" concert was a SRO affair at Avery Fisher (Philharmonic) Hall at Lincoln Center in New York. Everyone is at their best in a group that has been remarkable in it's musical consistency and their wide and varied repertoire is on full display. The group is energetic and inspired and because of the very special occasion there is something extra in the band's performance even though there are many recorded versions of most of these tunes they play. The evening was issued by Atlantic on three LPs then eventually put out on a deluxe double CD set called "The Last Concert"....if the powers that be would have known at the time they could have called it "The Last Concert For A While". We'll play a great portion of this historic musical event on tonight's Jazz Feature."