Song:Variants on a Theme of Thelonious Monk
Album:The Golden Striker/Jazz Abstractions
Though the 1960 album Jazz Abstractions is frequently credited to Modern Jazz Quartet pianist John Lewis and is listed in his discography, he doesn't actually appear on the album. It is written and conducted by third stream jazz pioneer Gunther Schuller. For those who like that kind of jazz, this album is a must. He was born Nov. 22, 1925 in New York City. His father was a violinist in the New York Philharmonic. By the time he was a teen, Schuller was an accomplished french horn player and in the 40s he played with the American Ballet Theater and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Then he moved back to New York to play with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in the 50s. Meanwhile, Schuller got interested in jazz when he played french horn on some of the sessions for Miles Davis' landmark album Birth of the Cool. He played jazz on the side. In 1955, he formed the Modern Jazz Society with Modern Jazz Quartet pianist John Lewis. They wanted to combine jazz and classical techniques which Schuller called "third stream". By 1959, Schuller quit playing and became a composer and conductor. Lewis recorded for Atlantic Records as part of MJQ. But he also recorded solo albums. And in the case of Jazz Abstractions, his name appeared on the cover but he didn't actually appear on the record. Schuller wrote and conducted the record. Jim Hall wrote one song and played guitar. Other musicians appearing included Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy on sax, George Duvivier and Scott LaFaro on bass and Bill Evans on piano. So it's worth checking out for fans of those musicians. Jazz Abstractions is only available on this Collectables twofer CD paired with the 1960 John Lewis album The Golden Striker. Schuller was president of the New England Conservatory in the 60s and 70s. He recorded occasionally and is probably best known for his 70s recordings of ragtime composer Scott Joplin. He won a Grammy for his 1974 album Joplin: The Red Back Book. He also won a Pulitzer Prize for the 1994 composition of Reminiscences and Reflections and he has won other awards. He is currently the artistic director for the Northwest Bach Festival in Spokane, WA. Here's a video for Variations on a Theme of Thelonious Monk by Gunther Schuller.