The Modern Jazz Quartet had their origins in trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie's orchestra where vibraphonist Milt Jackson, pianist John Lewis, and drummer Kenny Clarke played together. Bassist Percy Heath completed the foursome in 1952 and then Clarke was replaced by Connie Kay in 1955. For a brief time, they were signed with the Beatles' label, Apple Records and recorded two albums Under the Jasmin Tree and Space, which have been remastered and are now available as digital downloads and together on a single CD.
The former is comprised of four tracks. A few seconds into "The Blue Necklace," the music sounds like the listener is descending slowly, bringing to mind Alice falling down the rabbit hole. The drums are joined by something being shaken that sounds like wooden wind chimes. The vibes deliver some high notes but then for me the whole thing falls apart at 1:48 when a bell is repeatedly struck, resulting grating high-pitched tones. It's unfortunate not only because there's some great interplay between the piano and vibes, but I all can think of is this tortuous bell is ringing out like the beating of a tell-tale heart. The damn thing finally stop at 4:21 but it's too late at that point, as I never want to hear this song again.
"Three Little Feeling (Part I, II, III)" really lets everyone shine over the course of 14 minutes in three movement running three, six, and five minutes. After the quartet plays for a few seconds, the vibes drop away and the drummer switches to brushes. The Bass stands out and then vibes return. The piano solos and someone humming can be faintly heard. Cymbals are the first to return; the bass joins in to help push the pace. Vibes then come in and dominate the arrangement. A crescendo builds and then falls away. After a moment of silence, the bell briefly returns but thankfully goes away after a few strikes and then they continue their interplay. Odd that the title refers to three feeling because many emotions flow through the track or maybe that's just my response.
"Exposure" follows in a similar vein as different members come to the forefront while the others offer support. "Jasmin Tree" hearkens back to "Blue Necklace" as the bell returns and is played incessantly. It's unfortunate because the piece has such joy from the handclap accompaniment but again all I can think of is when is this song going to be over so I don't have to hear that damn bell any longer. It's an excruciating 3:43 by the time it does, but the handclaps fall away as well. A slow fade out ends the song and that album.