It's all about the swing. Featured in the Count Basie Orchestra
, one of the hardest swinging bands ever, Thad Jones
had more swing in his little toe then most musicians will ever dream of. Even when he slowed the tempo he still swung, and his second date as a leader for Blue Note Records, The Magnificent Thad Jones
, swings more at mid-tempo than almost any record I know. The rhythm on this record is a relentless pendulum: It swings left; then it swings right. It's rock solid, and man it never stops swinging!
Basie's rendition of "April In Paris" is justifiably famous (One more time!) but this five-man unit does it justice from a different perspective. Percy Heath
's bass line anchors it while Jones trades off the melody with Billy Mitchell
's tenor. Jones reprises his 'Pop-Goes-The-Weasel' quote on his way into a solo that uses just the right combination of top chops, self-restraint, and his gorgeous burnished tone to make it, indeed, magnificent.
As he approached senior citizenship, someone asked Louis Armstrong
why he didn't play as fast as he used to. His answerparaphrasing a littlewas, 'It took me seventy years to learn which notes to leave out.' That's where Jones is here. His solos are spare compared to some of his contemporaries, using only the notes he needs to make the statement, emphasizing his artistry by relying on what could only be described as his own impeccable taste and timing.
The one lone exception to the swing on this record is the ballad, "If Someone Had Told Me," but even hear the rhythm holds the key. It's the trumpet's lead-in, with Barry Harris
adding just a touch of delicate comping on piano. Jones takes the opportunity to use subtle tempo adjustments to dramatize the melody before Heath and the impeccable Max Roach
join to solidify the stately pace. Jones' tone is so clear and poignant; it's a truly beautiful performance.
A few words about this specific reissue: Music Matters has been re-pressing classic Blue Note albums on vinyl from the original master tapes for over half a decade now. With over one hundred records on the street, they're finally wrapping up the series with their last thirteen titles. The Magnificent Thad Jones, at 33rpm, gets the full treatment, with a slick heavy weight gatefold jacket and a first-class 180gram RTI pressing. Like almost all of the Music Matters records, the sound can't be beat. Jones' horn is right there!
The Magnificent Thad Jones is a record for the ages. Sixty years after it was first released it sounds as fresh and immediate as you could ask for. The original Rudy Van Gelder
Mono recording was one of his better efforts, and the music...well, what else could I add except this: How much do I like this record? I wore it out writing the review. Try to keep your toes from tapping. I dare you!