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When it came to progressive big bands during the ‘60s, few ensembles could boast the kind of staying power and muscle of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. With some of the biggest names in the business as part of the ensemble’s regular roster and the uniformly exceptional output of writer Thad Jones, this band was successful at a time when economics were making it hard for even established organizations to stay afloat. Unfortunately, the great legacy of the Thad and Mel band was documented on the Solid State label and aside from a Mosaic boxed set compiling that material which is long out-of-print, none of the group’s historic output for the label is available on disc (let’s modify that slightly in that you can get CD reissues of the Joe Williams and Ruth Brown sets that are backed by the band, but these are of a different set of cloth).
Helping to rectify things ever so slightly is the recent reissue of Consummation, the band’s one and only release on the Blue Note label. But this was really not a Blue Note set in the truest fashion. Solid State’s own Sonny Lester in fact, produced it. Furthermore, engineer Don Hahn would be at the dials, foreshadowing his work on later Jones-Lewis projects for A&M Horizon. Eight distinctive Jones originals make up the program here, although only “A Child Is Born” really caught on. Too bad because cuts like “Us” and “Ahunk Ahunk” slide between funk and rock grooves in way that’s always intuitive and never cloying. And for up tempo swinging of the high octane variety there’s an almost eleven minute version of “Fingers.”
Aside from a solid rhythm section which features Roland Hanna and Richard Davis, there are a number of star soloists including Pepper Adams, Joe Farrell, Marvin Stamm, Jimmy Knepper, Eddie Daniels, and Howard Johnson. So until those Solid States come out again in some form, pick up Consummation and enjoy the vibes.
Track Listing: Dedication; It Only Happens Every Time; Tiptoe; A Child Is Born; Us; Ahunk Ahunk; Fingers; Consummation (46:32).
Personnel: Thad Jones, flugelhorn; Snooky Young, Danny Moore, Al Porcino, Marvin Stamm, trumpet; Eddie Bert, Benny Powell, Jimmy Knepper, trombone; Cliff Heather, bass trombone; Jerome Richardson, soprano, alto sax, flute; Jerry Dodgion, alto sax, clarinet, flute; Billy Harper, tenor sax, flute; Eddie Daniels, tenor sax, clarinet, flute; Richie Kamuca (1?3, 8), baritone sax, clarinet; Pepper Adams (4?6), Joe Farrell (7), baritone sax); Roland Hanna, acoustic, electric piano; Richard Davis, acoustic, electric bass; Mel Lewis, drums. Tracks 1, 8, add Jimmy Buffington, Earl Chapin, Dick Berg, Julius Watkins, French horn; Howard Johnson, tuba. Tracks 5, 6, add David Spinozza, guitar.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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