THAD JONES The Magnificent Thad Jones (Music Matters)
Opening with a smooth, sedate, ever-so-slightly offbeat version of “April In Paris”, trumpeter Thad somewhat shatters the prevailing calm with a raucous quote from “Pop Goes The Weasel”, apparently a trick he used to play back in his Count Basie days. “If I Love Again” is more of a jumpin’ jive, with Max Roach’s drum solo a feat of rhythmic and almost melodic architecture. Jones is prominently to the fore during “If Someone Had Told Me”, leaving the rhythm section to saunter through this ballad behind him. Aside from these standards and not-quite-standards, the balance of the album is made up with a couple of the headliner’s own compositions, and though pleasant they seem somewhat inconsequential, well-meaning but sacrificing immediacy for elaboration. Maybe, just maybe, though, the key to the album really is its unprepossessing, unshowy nature, as if the musicianship on display is too subtle to shout about how good it is. Kind of at odds with the hyperbolic title, but there it is.
I may quibble with the content, but the presentation conforms to Music Matters’ magnificent standards. It might not have the sonic scrumminess of some of the company’s other 45rpm Blue Note reissues – it’s a little sharp sounding to my ears, trumpet and cymbal work especially –but then again this recording is 55 years old. The crisp reproduction of Francis Wolff’s cover photograph – on glossy, thick cardboard – is breathtaking, especially as it now folds around the spine in a way that I suspect it doesn’t on an original issue, and a series of evocative shots from the recording session are spread across the gatefold. There are even a few slyly caustic comments in Leonard Feather’s sleeve note. Considering Mr Roach, “Loath as I am to admit it, I must say that if anybody can convince me than a drum solo belongs on a record, it is Max”, and apropos the Peter De Rose composition ““If Someone Had Told Me”…shows what a man of much distinction can do to a song of very little”.