12th & Jackson Blues

12th & Jackson Blues 

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McVouty Records - MCR62399

1. 12th & Jackson Blues [mp3]12jb
2. Jitterbug Waltz [mp3]
3. Ladybird
4. Who Do You Love, I Hope
5. Midnight Stomp
6. Is It True What They Say About Dixie? [Full Song]
7. Monk's Mood
8. Mahalia's Dance
9. Dream Dancing [mp3]
10. Upside

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12th & Jackson Blues CD cover
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Jay Thomas (trumpet, ); John Hansen (piano); Russ Botten (bass); Jon Wikan (drums)

Recorded live at the Cotton Club (Vancouver, BC) on May 21st & 22nd, 1999

"Although the trumpet is the main instrument, Mr. Thomas's full, sensual sound on tenor is equally compelling and personal. On all instruments, there is constant spontaneity."
Nat Hentoff, Wall Street Journal . . . more ›

"Thomas is a trumpeter recognized by his peers, if not by critics or the jazz public, as one of today's best soloist on the instrument."
Doug Ramsey, Jazz Times . . . more ›

"Caught live in sparkling form at a Canadian jazz club, the Jay Thomas quartet fairly bubbles with inventive, spontaneous musical sounds."
Derek Ansell, Jazz Journal International (England) . . . more ›

"...This disc will steer the special someone straight into romance. If not, check your pulse."
Eric A. Diekman, Rapport Magazine . . . more ›

* * * * *

"12th & Jackson Blues" REVIEWS

"Seattle's Jazz Master Of Five Horns"
By Nat Hentoff, Wall Street Journal - April 19th, 2000 "Leisure & Arts"

As a teenager in Boston, the highlight of my week was the Sunday jam sessions in the city's clubs. In one of them, the band consisted of local musicians; many of whom had day jobs, and such mighty visitors as Sidney Bechet and Wild Bill Davison who made us Bostonians swing beyond our dreams.

The music was straight ahead "hot" jazz. It made you feel good, even the blues. Those afternoons came back for me recently when I listened to the recordings of Jay Thomas, a Seattle trumpet player who quintuples on alto, tenor and soprano saxophones and flute.

He doesn't play "Muskrat Ramble" or "High Society" -- the staples of the sessions of my youth. But as conversant as he is with all the jazz idioms going beyond John Coltrane, Thomas improvises with the joyous élan of his vintage progenitors. "The music," he says, "has the power to transform and fulfill like no other activity I know. It's sort of a compulsive-obsessive disorder." Or, as Isaac Stern put it, when it all comes together, "it's a kind of personal ecstasy."

Mr. Thomas, at 51, is not a household name among many jazz listeners, although his recordings have been warmly reviewed in some of the jazz journals. He has appeared on more than 50 CDs, mostly as a sideman, and has a following in Japan, where he often plays.

But his career reminds me of what Coleman Hawkins, the magisterial tenor saxophonist, once told me about hearing a very impressive player in Oklahoma. "I told him, 'You've got it, but you'll never make it until you make it in New York.' " Hawkins said. He could have also included Chicago or Los Angeles, but there are indeed formidable, largely hometown players around the country who never have broken through to the big time.

Mr. Thomas was in New York briefly in the late 1960s, but Seattle has been his primary base. His father was a trumpet player who became a pharmacist. The son, starting on trumpet when he was ten, studied his father's wide-ranging record collection and started gigging around town when he was 15. He says that he used to sneak into the segregated black jazz clubs for further education.

Mr. Thomas is well-known among jazz musicians, having played with a number of them visiting the west coast. But by 1984 he was describing himself as just "a solid journeyman player." He kept trying to promote himself, however, and over several years, I kept receiving copies of his new recordings, most recently his first ones as leader of his own group.

So many CDs come in to my office that it wasn't until a couple of months ago that I finally played one of his. Having been immediately brought back to the pure jazz feeling of the jam sessions of my youth, I asked for more and now have a substantial Jay Thomas collection, including a "live" recording, "12th and Jackson Blues," (McVouty Records, 2414 N 41st, Seattle, WA 98103, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), named after a black-and-tan club in Seattle where Thomas used to sit in at Sunday afternoon jam sessions. Those afternoons represent to him -- and to me -- "a wilder and freer time in jazz. Along with the fun there was an atmosphere that was sensual and slightly dangerous. As much as I love and appreciate the strides that jazz is making in academia, I hope the music keeps some of the atmosphere of those days."

His music does that. As on another of his sets as a leader, "Live At Tula's / Jay Thomas Quartet" (McVouty), his repertory ranges from Gershwin and Ellington to Fats Waller and such later jazz players and composers as Lee Morgan, Thelonious Monk and Tadd Dameron. There are also Jay Thomas originals.

Although the trumpet is his main instrument, Mr. Thomas's full, sensual sound on tenor is equally compelling and personal. On all his instruments, there is constant spontaneity. He avoids what used to be called "licks" -- set phrases and harmonies to fall back on when imagination slows. And on ballads, Mr. Thomas exemplifies Quincy Jones's observation: "The melody is the most powerful thing there is. . . . The right melody is the magic, man. Melody does something electrical to your soul."

"You can recognize jazz as an art form," says Mr. Thomas, "but remember, it also used to be danced to. And that became part of people's lives." As Duke Ellington once told me, "When I hear a sigh on the dance floor, that becomes part of our music."

Copyright © 2000 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

* * * * *

By Doug Ramsey, Jazz Times

Thomas is a trumpeter recognized by his peers, if not by critics or the jazz public, as one of today's best soloists on the instrument. He is equally accomplished as a saxophonist and flutist. Here, he excels on trumpet, fluegelhorn, tenor and soprano before an audience at the Cotton Club in Vancouver, B.C. The music would have been happily received at 12th and Jackson, the heart of Seattle's jazz community, where Thomas did his early learning in the1970's. The bebop sensibility he absorbed then is at the core of his style, but it is tempered with outside harmonies that send his improvisations in unanticipated directions. His rhythm section of pianist John Hansen, bassist Russ Botten and drummer Jon Wikan are finely attuned to Thomas and to one another. They all do consistently interesting things with a repertoire that includes pieces by Thomas, Hansen, Fats Waller, Thelonious Monk, Tadd Dameron, Irving Berlin, Irving Caesar and Cole Porter. Thomas' fluegelhorn solo on Berlin's "Who Do You Love, I Hope," from the Broadway version of Annie Get Your Gun, is a study in wry astringency. His playing on tenor in "Dream Dancing" is serene. On soprano, he laces "Ladybird" with eyebrow raising note choices. Wikan's drumming throughout is worthy of the attention that he commands with his New Orleans parade introduction to "Is It True What They Say About Dixie?

* * * * *

By Derek Ansell, Jazz Journal International (England)

Caught live in sparkling form at a Canadian jazz club, the Jay Thomas quartet fairly bubbles with inventive, spontaneous musical sounds. What is surprising here is that the leader shows himself to be a good, sturdy tenor saxophonist on the opening blues and then a very impressive trumpeter on "Jitterbug Waltz". His fragmented, jerky lines on the waltz are, nevertheless very lyrical and catch the essence of contemporary bop trumpet along with strong support from an imaginative and sympathetic rhythm section. A further surprise comes when he picks up a soprano sax for Dameron's "Ladybird" and makes it sound as though this is his foremost instrument.

He is back on trumpet for the Irving Berlin number, again playing little short spurts of notes that come tumbling out of his horn as clearly as crystal. His reading of "Who Do You Love" is reminiscent of the late Lee Morgan's version of this piece on his quartet disc for Blue Note in the late 1950's. However, an acknowledged and very logical influence on Jay, was Ira Sullivan who, along with Benny Carter, is the only other musician who sounds as good on saxes as trumpet and appears to be equally happy with either brass or reeds. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Mr.Thomas is the way he is developing a personal sound on tenor and an equally unique one on trumpet. His tenor has a warm, burnished sound but with a boppish edge that puts him firmly in the more modern school of jazz.

The rhythm section here is first class and they swing compulsively. Hansen is a strong soloist with a preference for block chords in the main but his single note lines fairly ripple along when he chooses to employ them. Botten has a lovely woody sound that the recording engineer has captured to perfection and Wikan's drums are always appropriate and propulsive. Jazz enthusiasts with a broad taste in music are enthusiastically recommended to hear this disc at their earliest opportunity.

* * * * *

By Eric A. Diekman, Rapport Magazine

Recorded live at the Cotton Club in Vancouver BC on May 21st and 22nd, 1999. Jay Thomas opens his CD, 12th and Jackson Blues with the title track, an original number and homage to his younger years and the people he played with in Seattle. "To me, it represents a wilder and freer time in jazz. Along with the fun there was an atmosphere that was sensual and slightly dangerous." Thomas writes in the liner notes of a club, the Black and Tan, in Seattle at the corner of 12th and Jackson, where blues and jazz musicians would gather and hold freeform jam sessions on Sunday afternoons. Thomas was just a kid then. An older acquaintance would bring him with his horn into this club where he brought one's own liquor and paid for "set-ups." There he would meld his way into the blues and jazz amalgam, sharpening himself as a musician and a creative. The cut is a straight ahead bebop tune, rife with the sensuality to which he alludes in his liner notes, mostly as a result of Jon Wikan's seductively gentle use of brushes on the drums and Thomas' sultry-smooth chiffon sax work.

Thomas looks to his romanticized musical past mostly by turning to the works from the time. Irving Berlin's Who Do You Love, I Hope, Cole Porter's Dream Dancing, and Thelonius Monk's Monk's Mood to name a few. In Who Do you Love, I Hope, Thomas summons notes so clean and high from his trumpet, at first it sounds like he's playing clarinet. The purity of his playing draws one in without choice. John Hansen's freedom with the piano, especially during his solo, sounds more like dancing than musicianship. The playfulness is contagious. The quartet intuitively addresses the thick foggy eros of Thelonius Monk in the aptly titled Monk's Mood. Every measure is treated with a brooding quality, distinctly piqued by Thomas's deep sax. This is the music a temptress would play while holding her lover in the middle of a sweltering New Orleans night. The crowd is so taken by the inescapable weight of the piece, there's a brief pause before they applaud, as though they need a moment to return to reality. With Dream Dancing, Thomas reminds us there's nothing more romantic than a Cole Porter song, Thomas, again on sax, stirs up a swirling of passion while Russ Botten's bass takes on an understated role. Equally, Wikan's brushes sweep in and out of the sweet brew, a high-hat here. A snare drum there. The key players here are Thomas and Hansen, and that's all the energy needed to bring Porter's dream dance into reality.

Jay Thomas and his buddies have encapsulated all the seductive energy anyone could possibility need in this disc. Whether driving down a lonely road at night or staying in for a cozy evening, 12th and Jackson Blues will steer the twilight and the special someone straight into romance. If not, check your pulse.

* * * * *

By Davis Lewis, Cadence Magazine - July 2000

Jay Thomas showcases his versatility on "12th and Jackson Blues" with strong tenor solos on the opening title track, "Midnight Stomp" and a sultry "Dream Dancing", lyrical trumpet variations in "Is It True What They Say About Dixie?" and Irving Berlin's rarely covered "Who Do You Love, I Hope", while his nimble soprano solos in "Mahalia's Dance" and "Upside" number among this band's most memorable performances. Piano player John Hansen matches the leader's solo invention and ability to swing and contributes memorable originals like "Midnight Stomp" and "Mahalia's Dance" to invigorate this mainstream set.