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November 2001

Michael Thomas Quintet
The Messenger
JazHead Entertainment

This is an impressive debut as a leader for trumpeter/flugelhornist Michael Thomas, but more so as a player and as a writer than as a producer. Granted, it is easy to be critical of certain aspects without knowing all the sweat, time constraints and marketing frustrations that go into putting out your first album. And let's not forget the bread involved. Perhaps that's why the notes proudly proclaim, "No editing, overdubs, or fixing. Just good stuff." It's putting a positive spin on the decision not to go back and touch up here and there.

What was needed were repairs to the Sahib Shihab line "Rue de la Harpe." Its fiendishly tricky bop intervals resulted in some sloppy harmonizing by the front line. What was needed was a different piano for Darius Scott; it was badly out of tune. What was needed was the removal of "The Warm Up," 44 unmotivated seconds that fade in and fade out midway through the CD.

Fine writing on "The Little Individual," Thomas' tune that begins and ends with an infectious bass ostinato by Kent Miller. The best solo work by Thomas and Graddy can be heard on "The Messenger" and "Mike's Blues." Stylistic influences by Freddie Hubbard, Jon Faddis and Roy Hargrove come through Thomas' horn. (His gut-wrenching solo on Mal Waldron's "Soul Eyes" is spoiled by the out of tune comping.) Altoist Antonio Parker is heard on two tracks and he never disappoints.

Originally published in November 2001
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