Claude Thornhill was a pianist, composer, and arranger whose 1940s big band helped shape the sound of modern jazz, with orchestral bop and ethereal ballads tinged with classical influences that set the stage for later masterpieces by Miles Davis and Gil Evans. Through his unusual instrumentation and subtle sense of dynamics, Thornhill and his collaborator Evans created music that was powerful yet quiet and that “hung like a cloud,” as Evans said. This week Night Lights pays a symbolic centennial tribute to the Terre Haute, Indiana bandleader with a comprehensive look at his career in music.
Claude Thornhill: Godfather of Cool includes music from both his pre-World War II and postwar bands, featuring arrangements from Thornhill and Evans, soloists and singers such as Fran Warren and Lee Konitz, and a wide range of Thornhill’s repertoire, from the ballads and classically-influenced pieces to pop hits and bebop anthems such as “Robbins Nest,” and an early Thornhill foray into the avant-garde with “Portrait of a Guinea Farm.”
Singer and historian Tom Roznowski (host of the epic WFIU Terre Haute series Hometown also offers reflections on how Thornhill’s origins influenced his music.