Jazz for All Generations

I get a lot of recordings and approach most of them with expectation, including CDs by musicians with whose names I’m not familiar. I’m hoping for music I’ll want to return to, especially during those times when only music will lift me up. Some of what I hear on these discs I’ve heard before, one way or another, some of the other music tries so hard to be on the cutting edge that what comes through for me is the player’s ambition, not his or her life story. But recently I found a session that can be an introduction for someone who wants to get into the essence of jazz-and will delight those who already know and can’t get enough of it: One More: Music of Thad Jones, on IPO. As William Sorin, the label owner and its A&R man, says: “The recording features legendary musicians who were associated with Thad and performed his music throughout his career: his brother, Hank, James Moody, Benny Golson and Frank Wess, who performed in Thad’s small groups as far back as the early 1950s. Also, Bob Brookmeyer, Jimmy Owens and Richard Davis who, along with Hank, were charter members of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra, and Roland Hanna, Hank’s successor in the band.”

All but one track, Thelonious Monk’s “Monk’s Mood,” are Thad Jones originals, and this set should focus long-due attention to the glowing flow of his imagination. As Benny Golson says: “He does the unexpected, but somehow the anticipated. It keeps the music an adventure.” Part of that adventure is how his use of space makes the music breathe. But what makes this an adventure for all generations of listeners is the ambience, the atmosphere of the session-each musician at celebratory ease within himself and with each other, while continuing the unifying spirit of the man they admired, whose life helped illuminate their own.

I was an A&R man for a couple of years when Archie Bleyer enabled me to start Candid. Not all those sessions had this feeling of personal and collective completeness. But when it happened, as on Booker Little’s Out Front-with Eric Dolphy, Julian Priester, Ron Carter, Don Friedman, Art Davis and Max Roach-it was a joy. Booker, from whom I learned a lot, and not only about music, told me that in jazz “there should be much less stress on technical exhibitionism and much more on emotional content, on what might be termed humanity in music, and the freedom to say all that you want to.”

On One More: Music of Thad Jones these friends of Thad exemplify what Booker was looking for-in the stories they tell, in their solos and their deeply easeful collective interplay. Part of the natural completeness of this date are the adaptations of Thad’s scores by composer-arranger Mike Patterson, who says in Ira Gitler’s finely attuned liner notes: “[Thad’s] music…has the blues, bebop and strong gospel roots.” Finally, there’s the continuing, compelling presence of Thad himself. I can still see him, standing imposingly in front of the band, ready for the ride of surprise.

Producer Sorin has been devoted to jazz from his youth and even studied piano with Roland Hanna. He became a sufficiently successful lawyer in the corporate and financial fields to spend more time on his abiding interest in building a record label like IPO. Like the late Norman Granz, Sorin records the music he most wants to hear again and again.

He is especially drawn to those musicians who “represent the first generation of their particular style, who worked things out for themselves on the spot rather than by memorizing transcriptions in practice rooms,” he says. “I’m sure there are lots of exceptions to that pronouncement. [But] the players on this recording are, to me, giants of one of the last remaining groups of first-generation jazz musicians, and certainly no composer represents their generation better than Thad. So this was an opportunity to get together a group of some of the best original players in the history of jazz while they are still playing beautifully-and maybe to remind people just how beautifully they still are playing.

“At the Clinton Studio [in New York] where we recorded, they have a print of the historic Art Kane/Esquire photograph ‘A Great Day in Harlem’ on the wall, and Jimmy Owens pointed out that of the approximately nine surviving subjects of the photograph, three were in the studio that day. Two were on the date-Benny Golson and Hank Jones-and drummer Eddie Locke had stopped by to visit.”

There will be a sequel on the IPO label of Thad Jones’ music with the same players, except that Eddie Daniels will be in the band in place of James Moody with Kenny Washington sitting in on drums for Mickey Roker. But the ceaselessly exuberant Moody will record a few songs to add to the CD.

One More: Music of Thad Jones is available at record stores, Amazon.com or from Qualiton Imports (718-937-8515). For the label’s catalog, go to iporecordings.com.