Episode: Pomp and the MJQ


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Pomp and the MJQ
On today's date in 1907, the "Pomp and Circumstance" March No. 4 by Sir Edward Elgar had its premiere performance in London. Say "Pomp and Circumstance" to most people and they will start humming the tune of Number One, later set to words as "Land of Hope and Glory." That march accompanied many of us down the aisle at our high school or college graduations. In all, Elgar composed five "Pomp and Circumstance" marches, and meant to write a sixth, but just never got around to it. No. 1 is the most familiar, but No. 4 runs a close second, with another very noble, very British main tune. During World War II, Sir Alan Herbert fitted his "Song of Freedom" to this music and with its opening line of "All men must be free," it became an unofficial alternate British national anthem. Meanwhile on these shores, we note that one of America's classic chamber jazz ensembles was founded on today's date in 1951 in New York City , when the Modern Jazz Quartet was formed by pianist John Lewis, vibraphonist Milt Jackson, bassist Percy Heath, and drummer Kenny Clarke. Under the direction of Lewis, the Quartet fused jazz improvisation with classical forms and Baroque counterpoint. Instead of playing in smoky bars, MJQ made a point of playing in concert halls and even wore tuxes, asking audiences to afford their chamber jazz the same attention and respect usually reserved for classical music.

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