Yesterday was an especially busy day from a writing perspective. To clear my head and stay focused, I put on Consummation by the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. I have no idea why I reached for it. I haven't heard the album in years. I bought the record when it first came out in 1970, and I probably wanted to re-hear the variation of smart orchestral pieces that Thad Jones composed and arranged
When I put on the album, it immediately sounded like New York in 1970. I remembered that Checker cabs were still around, nearly every street-level business had old neon signs in saturated reds and greens, and the twin towers of the World Trade Center were only a third completed. Most streets below Houston were still made of cobblestones and the entire West Side was desolate at night and during the day. The hulking warehouses that once stored goods from docked ships at Hudson River piers hadn't been turned into hip residences and offices yet.
Consummation sounded like the dawn of a new decade. The '60s, with its folk overtones, were over, and a new edgier, electronic period was emerging. The band has a sighing feel, with horns pushing here and there and Roland Hanna's bright piano octave and Fender Rhodes bleeds through the orchestrations beautifully. Listening to the album yesterday, the music holds up well, and Jones's solos are rich.
The band was quite extraordinary. On the first session in January 1970, it featured Thad Jones (flhrn,arr,dir); Snooky Young, Danny Moore, Al Porcino and Marvin Stamm (tp); Eddie Bert, Benny Powell and Jimmy Knepper (tb); Cliff Heather (b-tb); Jimmy Buffington, Earl Chapin, Dick Berg and Julius Watkins (fhr); Howard Johnson (tu); Jerome Richardson (sop,as,fl); Jerry Dodgion (as,cl,fl); Billy Harper (ts,fl); Eddie Daniels (ts,cl,fl); Richie Kamuca (bar,cl); Roland Hanna (p,el-p); Richard Davis (b,el-b) and Mel Lewis (d,dir).
On the third session (Fingers), Joe Farrell replaced Richie Kamuca. On the fourth and final session (A Child Is Born, Us and Ahunk Ahunk), Pepper Adams replaced Joe Farrell, and David Spinozza was added on guitar. The highlights remain It Only Happens Every Time, Tip Toe, A Child Is Born and Consummation.
The music still sound regal and is even more fascinating when you walk around New York listening to it with headphones on. The music was pure New York in 1970.
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