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Jay Thomas: 12th and Jackson Blues

Thomas is a trumpeter recognized by his peers, if not by critics or the jazz public, as one of today’s best soloists on the instrument. He is equally accomplished as a saxophonist and flutist. Here, he excels on trumpet, fluegelhorn, tenor and soprano before an audience at the Cotton Club in Vancouver, B.C. The music would have been happily received at 12th and Jackson, the heart of Seattle’s jazz community, where Thomas did his early learning in the 1960s. The bebop sensibility he absorbed then is at the core of his style, but it is tempered with outside harmonies that send his improvisations in unanticipated directions.

His rhythm section of pianist John Hansen, bassist Russ Botten and drummer John Wikan are finely attuned to Thomas and to one another. They all do consistently interesting things with a repertoire that includes pieces by Thomas, Hansen, Fats Waller, Thelonious Monk, Tadd Dameron, Irving Berlin, Irving Caesar and Cole Porter. Thomas’ fluegelhorn solo on Berlin’s “Who Do You Love, I Hope,” from the Broadway version of Annie Get Your Gun, is a study in wry astringency. His playing on tenor in “Dream Dancing” is serene. On soprano, he laces “Ladybird” with eyebrow raising note choices. Wikan’s drumming throughout is worthy of the attention that he commands with his New Orleans parade introduction to “Is It True What They Say About Dixie?”

Originally Published