Blues For JW

Blues For JW 

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1. Blues For JWMI00023880532. Sometime Ago
3. Low Key Lightly
4. Why Don't You
5. On The Brink
6. You Know I Care
7. I'm Afraid
8. Alone Together
9. A Lady's Vanity

McVouty Records - MCVCD8240
Jay Thomas (trumpet, flugelhorn & tenor sax); Bob Nixon (piano); Chuck Kistler (bass); Matt Jorgensen (drums)

Recorded live at Tula's Jazz Club (Seattle, WA) by Jim Wilke on November 23rd, 2002


 

JAY'S COMMENTS (from the liner notes):

On this latest CD for the McVouty Records label we achieved an emotional rapport that is not easy to come by. It was great to have my old friends Bob Nixon and Jim Wilke involved with this recording. They are definitely part of my roots. I first met Bob Nixon in 1965 back when I was just a pup. I was studying with Floyd Standifer and Floyd took me to a rehearsal that was held at Bob's house. (This was a band that is looked back on as one of the very best ever in Seattle). I have played with Bob over the years and he remains today one of the "cats" on the N.W. jazz scene. Bob plays piano with deep feeling and has a natural affinity for the blues. Bob carries a lot of jazz tradition with him and we were lucky to have him on this recording.

Jim WilkeEven though he did not play an instrument on this gig, I consider Jim Wilke an essential part of the making of this CD. Many of you know Jim Wilke from the radio shows he has had for over thirty years. What many people don't realize is how many jazz recordings Jim has done. Jim recorded both Ellington and Trane in Seattle and way too many others to mention. To skip way down the list, he first recorded me in 1971 or 72 at the now defunct Jazz Gallery. I mentioned this fact on the bandstand and Matt laughed and said, "That was the year I was born". On his Jazz After Hours show, which is heard all over the world, Jim plays a great variety of jazz artists. Jim haz the knack for capturing the sounds of jazz in its natural habitat. Thanks Jim.

Our drummer, Matt Jorgensen, can really cook in the hard bop and Bebop tradition, reminiscent of Art Taylor or Philly Joe. Matt is a "mover" and he covers a lot of ground. He definitely helped to elevate the music by his presence and musicianship. It was great to have Matt aboard on this CD.

The most recent addition to the N.W. jazz scene is Chuck Kistler. He hails from NY where he played guitar in an earlier incarnation. One night he showed up at a quartet gig I had and I had him sit in, thinking, "oh well, it's near the end of night what harm can it do?" Look out! It turned out to be a blast. As I write he is assuredly at home shedding something to do with jazz bass playing.

--- Jay Thomas

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"Blues For JW" REVIEWS

By Harvey Siders - July 31st, 2003

For the record, they're no longer called "records," but no musician says he hopes to ink a lucrative "CD deal." And singers still talk about putting out a "cover record." Ah, the tyranny of words. Makes you long for the eccentricities of Slim Gaillard, the late guitarist who invented his own hip slang: words like vout,voot,oroonie,oreenie. Remember "Cement Mixer, Put-tee, Put-tee"?

Well, before I get hopelessly detoured, lets return to the original key and the latest release from McVouty the record label Jay Thomas named in honor of his tours with Gaillard. It's called Blues for JW, those initials standing for Jim Wilke, an excellent engineer and jazz historian with ties to more initials, KPLU.

It's from a live session at Tula's in Seattle, where Jay fronted a highly responsive rhythm section: Olympia's Bob Nixon, piano, Chuck Kistler, bass and Matt Jorgenson, drums. Of course, Jay is a small combo all by himself on this recording: trumpet, flugelhorn, and tenor sax. But he excels at all the saxes and flutes. Apparently one embouchure fits all. He also excels at breathing sensitivity and skill into those mouthpieces. Just playing a bunch of horns is impressive, but for this pair of ears it's accurate to say he never disappoints.

I've heard him in many combo and big band settings, and when he solos, he's always aware of the beauty of tone and the logic of the line. He sculpts more than he plays; I often wonder if he's capable of a boring solo. Blues for JW reinforces that feeling and Bob Nixon fits nicely into that category. He listens when he comps (accompanies) and reacts instantly. Take the title tune for example (You are going to buy the CD aren't you?): Bob uses the final two notes of Jay's solo as his launching pad. And listen to the clean unison between Jay's tenor and Kistler's bass. Jay wrote the line, but Chuck is clearly on the same page. And for quiet passion in jazz, try Jay's Getz-like sound on the seldom Ellington's seldom-heard " Low Key Lightly."

The whole album is so...so vouty!

--- Harvey Siders writes for Jazz Times and The Tacoma News Tribune. In addition to being a jazz writer of longstanding and Downbeat editor in the 1960's he also is an accomplished songwriter and lyricist.

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By Ferdinand Maylin, Jazz Now - October 2003 Vol.13, No.6

Multi-instrumentalist Jay Thomas starts out on tenor saxophone with his own piece, "Blues for JW"; he has a light, airy sound and an easy relaxed feel to his playing. "Sometime Ago", a Jazz waltz by Sergio Mihanovich brings out a fine feely solo from pianist Bob Nixon; Thomas, switching to trumpet, is always right on the money, placing his notes melodically in exactly the right place to intrigue and delight. He breathes soothingly into the tenor with Ellington's slow piece, "Low Key Lightly". Through "Why Don't You?", "On The Brink", a fast moving samba, "You Know I Care", a sentimental ballad, "Alone Together" and "A Lady's Vanity", another slow ballad, Thomas switches instruments constantly. "The CD went down easy," says Thomas, "just a Jazz gig at a Jazz club with a nice piano." Jay Thomas is a consummate professional, his improvisations are perfectly placed on this varied CD, with excellent backing and a special mention for the sensitive piano playing of Bob Nixon, this makes for good listening.

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By Michael P. Gladstone, ALL ABOUT JAZZ - December 8th, 2003

With a multi-horn specialist like Jay Thomas, you get a lot more bang for your buck, since his main axe is the trumpet / flugelhorn (a la Ira Sullivan, Australia's James Morrison and Benny Carter). Thomas is a Seattle-based musician who has appeared on sixty recorded sessions. This, his eighth album as a leader, was recorded at Tula's Jazz Club in Seattle exactly one year ago. With over four decades in the business, Thomas started with Machito's Band in the '60s and most recently was with Bud Shank's Group (featuring Conte Candoli's final session). Thomas was also awarded Earshot Magazine's Musician of the Year in 1996 and 1998.

These nine tracks move along quite nicely with respect to variety, set list and musicianship. Thomas divides his time equally between trumpet / flugelhorn and tenor sax. The two Thomas originals are medium groove compositions. On the title tune, a tenor sax blues, and on "Why Don't You?" on trumpet, Thomas sets a comfortable pace with attractive melody and solo work. Referring to Art Farmer's Interaction album in the mid '60s, Thomas plays pretty on Sergio Milhanovich's "Sometime Ago." Two lesser known Ellngton compositions are included: "Low Key Lightly," from the film Anatomy of A Murder, is performed as a tender ballad on tenor sax; while "I'm Afraid" is done in a boppish mode on trumpet. Jerry Bergonzi's "On the Brink" is rendered at an uptempo pace and Duke Pearson's beautiful ballad "You Know I Care" gives the leader an excellent opportunity on tenor sax. There's one standard, "Alone Together," taken uptempo and the session concludes with Lucky Thompson's "A Lady's Vanity" from his '60s Tricotism session. There is still a last minute secret - the standard "Secret Love," a hidden track – offered up as a flag-waver encore.

I really like the total package of Blues for JW. Everything played is, at the very least, good, with quite a bit of the music being exemplary. The trio of Bob Nixon, Chuck Kistler and Matt Jorgensen delivers solid support and solo work, and the live ambiance at Tula's fueled the musicians' creativity.

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By Nate Dorward, Cadence - January, 2004

Veteran Seattle musician Jay Thomas has mastered one of the most difficult instrumental doubling, being fluent on both brass and saxophone. Of the two, I prefer his tenor playing, which betrays his affection for the ill-starred Lucky Thompson, a great player who's never received his due; on trumpet and flugelhorn his sound is mid-way between Art Farmer and Chet Baker. Thomas' Liner notes refer to this session modestly as "just a Jazz gig at Jazz club with a nice piano." Which is true --- this is a solid, satisfying rather than especially surprising club gig, abetted by a very capable Seattle rhythm section; what sets it a cut above countless other such recordings is the thoughtful unhackneyed programming. Only "Alone Together" is familiar fare; the rest is an enjoyable demonstration of the leader's knowledgeable and very personal take on the Jazz canon. Sergio Mihanovich's "Sometime Ago" (from Art Farmer's book) is too much the generic "Pretty Jazz Waltz," perhaps, but Thomas has a special knack for uncovering ballads that ought to be in more musicians' repertoire: the disc's highlights include Ellington's "Low Key Lightly," Duke Pearson's "You Know I Care," and, best of all, Lucky Thompson's "A Lady's Vanity." Though not a standout CD, this is a sturdy, quietly instructive repertory album that is well worth a listen.