Recorded at Avatar Studios, New York, August 21 & 22, 2001.
Originally Mastered at Sony Music Studios, New York, NY.
Originally released five years ago on the small Vertical Jazz label, the existence of The Classical Jazz Quartet play Tchaikovsky was unknown to the majority of the jazz public and, as a result, the album failed to make the impact it deserved. However, following the highly positive critical and commercial response to the release of The Classical Jazz Quartet play Rachmaninov earlier this year, this important milestone in jazz is set to be given a new lease of life as it is re-released in re-mastered form on Kind of Blue.
The music of Tchaikovsky provides the perfect framework for this group to display their balance of emotion and technical precision. Kenny Barron is in typically inspired form and the quartet mingle beautifully around Ron Carter's supple, melodic bass lines and Lewis Nash's discrete and gently propulsive beat. Play Tchaikovsky is based on the composers ballet The Nutcracker Suite and a hard swinging version of "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" appropriately entitled "Groove of the Sugar Plum Fairy" is amongst the highlights.
The Classical Jazz Quartet has been compared to the renowned Modern Jazz Quartet and it is true that both groups bring the influence of classical music and chamber groups to jazz improvisation, appealing to jazz and classical music fans alike. The CJQ has, however, maintained a strongly classical repertoire, and will continue to do so - distinguishing them from the MJQ even amidst the parallels of the two groups' musicianship. The Classical Jazz Quartet will go down in history as one of the foremost jazz ensembles ever.
Jazz renditions of classical compositions go way back - even before jazz, actually, when the procedure was called "ragging the classics." Tchaikovsky has been friendly territory for jazz players from the start with his great self-contained tunes. The Classical Jazz Quartet - Kenny Barron on piano, Ron Carter on bass, Stefon Harris on vibraphone and marimba, and Lewis Nash on drums - takes up where the Modern Jazz Quartet of the 1950s left off. This disc was originally released as The Nutcracker Suite; it now reappears as part of a series of CJQ discs, each devoted to a different composer. This entire disc is based on Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker, whose famous tunes each serve as a basis for a variety of post-bop modern jazz improvisations. Tchaikovsky works as well for this purpose as would popular song melodies (for several of which his music has already served as the source, anyhow). A special pleasure is the vibraphone "Dance of the Mirlitons," (here titled "Mirlitonova"), in which Harris comes to the fore with a strong evocation of the style of Milt Jackson of the Modern Jazz Quartet. With the caveat for classical purists that this is a jazz disc rather than a jazz-flavored performance of Tchaikovsky, this is fusion music that anyone can enjoy at holiday time.
All Music Guide