Nutmegging This Up

Hunting vintage jazz vinyl records in the Nutmeg State

Thad Jones – The Magnificent Thad Jones (1958, Fantasy/Debut)

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Thad Jones – One More

Thad Jones – Bitty Ditty

Thad Jones – Sombre Intrusion

Thad Jones – I Can’t Get Started


Jazz cornetists are characterized by broad sounds that take corners on a dime. If you aren’t aware of the main difference, the cornet is a conical instrument, meaning that the tubing of the instrument gradually gets larger throughout the instrument, whereas a trumpet is cylindrical, staying mostly the same size until the bell. Generally the cornet sounds softer, although jazz musicians push the horn to capacity and take advantage of the extra opportunity to bend and shape the notes. Clark Terry and Nat Adderley typify this (check out Jimmy Heath’s Really Big! to hear them side by side). Thad Jones, on the other hand, seems to swing hard and deep despite the less brilliant and edgy of the two horns.

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Jones may be known first and second as an arranger and a bandleader, but his playing is nothing short of phenomenal. Even if you take Charles Mingus’s lengthy hyperbole from the back of the LP cover at half its value it is still a high standard to meet. Mingus probably overplays his hand when he suggests that Jones is the second coming of Fats Navarro or Clifford Brown, two luminaries gone well before they reached their apexes and still left a large impression on their peers. Jones is a deft musician, and surely it counts for something that the legendary bassist had some first hand experience with great players and put the cornetist in that camp.

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This Fantasy LP, in the trademark translucent red vinyl in which they pressed all their early mono titles (stereos were blue), is a compilation of 10″s that Jones made for the Debut label:  a quintet with Frank Wess in 1954, and a quartet in 1955.  Both sessions involve Mingus who is prominently miked (perhaps at his insistence?)  and fully engaged with the other members of the band (the bassist’s bravado is worth it…check “I Can’t Get Started”).  Jones can certainly carry the quartet he fronts on the later date, and personally I find that music more engaging, perhaps because it sound a lot less hushed.  Jones is perfectly framed whether playing open or with harmon mute.  On the contrary, “Bitty Ditty” gets off to an intriguing start but it definitely sounds more hushed than the quartet recordings.  No matter which session you sample, Jones swings in such a deft manner, dropping sometimes completely from sight and reappearing right in front of your eyes, that it is truly a joy to hear the music which lives within him.  When you consider the time in which guys like Jones, Mingus, and their cohorts cut their teeth, this music was on the cutting edge, the story was being written in real time.  The way the solo lines swing on “One More” – Jones will get an eighth note behind, then ahead, all while somehow staying in time – they just don’t teach that in school.

I picked up this LP at the WFMU Record Fair back at the end of May.  It was my first time attending at it was an exhausting, overwhelming experience that ultimately paid off with some nice LPs being added to my collection.  This particularly item came from Darren Revilla ( who has a reputation for hustling up and down the east coast finding buried analog treasure.  This LP is virtually spotless including a beautiful and glossy cover.  I picked up a George Wallington original on Savoy in similar condition but have been letting it age in my queue pile like a fine wine.  While I had a twinkle in my eye whilst browsing through classics on labels like Blue Note, Prestige, Riverside, and so on, I have always been curious about the lesser known recordings, the somewhat forgotten players.  To have a record that hits those curiosities in archival quality condition is something I am sure I will treasure down the road as I continue to collect and savor my old jazz LPs.

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This entry was posted on July 7, 2014 by .
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