Over the years the name Claude Thornhill has gotten something of short shrift in the area of acknowledgments of innovation. There was a time he was saddled with the genre of "sweet band" which clearly showed how clueless the mainstream music industry was, even then. The members of the Thornhill band read like a who's who of Jazz in the 1950's. Names like Gerry Mulligan, Gil Evans, Red Rodney and countless others came in and came away with a style of expression that anticipated the Bop Movement by several years. Gil Evans' arrangements became the backbone for the likes of Miles Davis, and his milestone album Birth Of the Cool featured many Thornhill alumni on those sessions. Gerry Mulligan often credited Thornhill with his style, saying it was easy to play loud (i.e. Stan Kenton), but playing soft brought out the interesting ideas.
So ClaudeThornhill was not just another big band that played for dancing. It was much more than that.
Over the years reissues have come out featuring the band during those pivotal days, mostly material from his period with Columbia Records as well as much of his work for the Lang-Worth Transcription label. He regularly broadcast, but much of that hasn't resurfaced.
This week's Downbeat features the Thornhill band live from Cafe Rouge at the Hotel Pennsylvania, recorded for ABC Radio on September 22, 1947. At the moment it's only the second half (the first half is in the vault "somewhere"), but it's a good taste of what they were doing at a period of time when popular music was going about changes and Jazz was taking huge strides.
It's a little noisy for the first 30 seconds or so, but it settles down and it's vintage Claude Thornhill from there on out.