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Thad Jones Danish Radio Big Band: A Good Time Was Had by All

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Almost without exception, the sidemen of the Danish Radio Big Band agree the most meaningful music they ever played occurred when Thad Jones was chief conductor in 1977 and ’78, despite the fact that since its inception in 1964 such greats as Bob Brookmeyer and Jim McNeely have also fronted the band.

When Jones defected from the Village Vanguard big band that he co-led with Mel Lewis, he arrived in Copenhagen to find two familiar expatriates, trumpeter Idrees Sulieman and trombonist/vocalist Richard Boone, plus a young, eager collection of top readers, doublers and improvisers equal to any studio ensemble in L.A. or the Apple, and they were ripe for the avuncular, creative discipline represented by Jones.

The rapport was instantaneous, as each fed off the other. Ten tunes were captured for posterity at the Montmartre Jazz Club in Copenhagen in ’78, and they’re spread out over 72 acoustically magical minutes on A Good Time Was Had By All. The saxes literally “Tip Toe” their way to a furtive opening, but there’s no stealth in a remarkable unison trombone soli that eventually follows with every hair in place or in the concerted writing that reveals Jones’ trademark emphasis on dynamic shadings.

The same can be said for Jones’ concern for crediting all soloists, and blessed was he with talented individual players. Above all, praise goes to alto saxophonist Jesper Thilo for “Tip Toe,” “Frelimo,” “Day Dream” and the title tune; Sulieman on “Tip Toe” and “Frelimo”; and trombonist Vincent Nilsson for “Kids Are Pretty People.” MVP award has to go to Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen, whose carefully chosen notes always goose the ensemble and fill gaps with double stops and unerring intonation.

Boone turns “I Got Rhythm” into a personal tour de force, singing its totally neglected verse, alternating between 3/4 and 4/4 and adding scat. The title track is such a happy shouter that if the Bard had been assigned this review he might have commented “there was something rockin’ in Denmark.”