360 Degrees

360 Degrees 

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Hep Records - HEP-CD2060

1. 360 Degrees CD cover360
2. Cheryl [mp3]
3. A Waltz [full song download]
4. All Too Soon
5. Wing Span
6. Why Not
7. Aisha [mp3]
8. Valse
9. Peacocks
10. Whims Of Chambers
11. My Ideal
12. Blues For McVouty (revisited)
13. Isfahan

Jay Thomas (trumpet, alto flute, soprano & alto sax); Travis Shook (piano); Larry Fuller (piano); Craig Hoyer (piano); Phil Sparks (bass); Doug Miller (bass); Jon Wikan (drums); John Bishop (drums); Bill Ramsay (alto sax); John Goforth (alto sax); Greg Schroeder (trombone); Gary Shutes (trombone); Denny Goodhew (clarinet)

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"360 Degrees" REVIEWS

By Bob Blumenthal, Boston Globe - March 17th, 1995

One benefit of the current jazz classicist phase is a growing effort to turn more of these tunes into certified jazz standards. A perfect example is Seattle trumpeter Jay Thomas' new album, "360 Degrees," on the Scottish Hep Jazz label. Thomas, who plays trumpet, flugelhorn, soprano sax, alto sax, tenor sax, alto flute and even adds a wordless vocal part at one point, would attract attention if only for his versatility. He also has a great ear for tunes, including Paul Chambers' "Whims of Chambers," Kenny Dorham's "A Waltz," Jimmy Rowles' "Peacocks" and Mulgrew Miller's "Wing Span," several of which are attractively embellished by efficient arrangements and overdubbing. Thomas' best effort at tune retrieval is McCoy Tyner's "Aisha", a ballad heard in John Coltrane's "Ole" (Atlantic). Coltrane played the beautiful melody on soprano and did not solo, while Thomas used trumpet and emphasizes brass in his sextet arrangement.

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By Derek Ansell, Jazz Journal International - June 1995

Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Thomas has assembled a batch of musicians from his hometown in Seattle and produced a session of mainstream hard bop with neat, clean arrangements by saxist Ramsay, Jack Perciful and the leader himself. He also produced the record and probably made the tea and swept the studio after the recording. He appears to be equally fluent on all the instruments he plays here and there are highly serviceable solos on offer from Shutes on trombone, Goodhew on baritone and saxophonist Ramsay. Cheryl clips along at a brisk speed and features a bright soprano solo by the leader. Tyner's Aisha is played at the same tempo as the Coltrane original and Jay's plaintive trumpet solo sounds very much like a flugelhorn to me. Valse is light and springy with another airy flugelhorn segment floating above the rhythm. A change of pace and mood comes along with Peacocks, the leader fashioning mellow flute lines. The 'vocals' consist of a sort of chanting by some of the musicians. Paul Chamber's blues line Whims Of Chambers gets a straight-ahead interpretation with fine Jay and rippling piano lines by Craig Hoyer. This is a lively release with plenty of program variety and some well constructed solo work; no new ground is broken but everyone works well in the mainstream tradition.

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By Jack Bowers, Cadence - July 1995

While the story that someone once looked in Webster's dictionary under "versatile" and found the definition "Jay Thomas" is apocryphal, there's no doubt that the Seattle-based Thomas is something of a Renaissance man among contemporary jazz musicians, playing soprano, alto and tenor saxophones, trumpet and flugelhorn, alto flute and, for an encore doubling (on "Peacocks") as a wordless vocal chorus. What is the more remarkable is that Thomas plays each of the aforementioned instruments quite well, and in the case of trumpet/flugelhorn, tenor saxophone and alto flute, often exceptionally well. He is perhaps weakest, if that is the proper word, on soprano saxophone - an assessment with which Thomas may agree, as he plays soprano only on "Cheryl." His trumpet or flugel, on the other hand, is heard on nine of twelve tracks including five of the most pleasing - Kenny Dorham's "A Waltz," bassist Paul Chambers' blues, "Whims Of Chambers," Claus Ogerman's "Valse," Ellington/Strayhorn's oft-played "Isfahan" and Thomas' own toe-tapper, "Blues For McVouty." Thomas' breathy tenor is perfectly suited to the lovely Ellington ballad, "All Too Soon," as is his melodic alto flute to the standard "My Ideal," and pianist Jimmy Rowles' "Peacocks." While the leader's various horns and woodwinds occupy much of the solo space, there are listenable excursions along the way by alto saxophonist Bill Ramsay, trombonist Gary Shutes, bassist Doug Miller and pianists Travis Shook and Larry Fuller, with the instrumental makeup on the various tracks ranging from quartet to septet. This is a well-played session with enough variety - thanks again to Thomas' versatility - to hold one's interest throughout.

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By Andy Bartlett, Earshot - March 1995

The advent of multi-instrumentalism came before the "new thing" in jazz, but it was the avant garde who pushed the envelope on donning multiple axes. From Rahsaan Roland Kirk's rack of various, often modified horns to the array in instruments offered up by Sun Ra's Arkestras and the Art Ensemble of Chicago, the lineage is often missed when critics discuss the work of trumpeter, saxophonist and flutist Jay Thomas. While clearly a bop oriented player fond of an Ellingtonian depth of accompaniment, Thomas' reservoir of expertise on his various horns recalls Rahsaan and Sun Ra in spirit if not in form and, in a way, echoes the achievement of Joe McPhee and the late Hal Russell. Of course, offering up these names isn't meant to suggest that Thomas is a free player except for his ability to shift embouchures, fingerings, tone and architectonics from tune to tune so expertly that one has to think of him at every bit the trumpeter, every bit the saxist, and so on. With 360 Degrees, Thomas, too offers his finest recording to date. This is partially due to the disc's overall looseness, a feature enhanced by the all-local, revolving coterie of players like Doug Miller, Travis Shook, John Bishop, Denney Goodhew, et al. From the sextet tunes (Ellington's "All Too Soon," and "Isfahan," Kenny Dorham's "A Waltz," Mulgrew Miller's "Wing Span," Houston Person's "Why Not," McCoy Tyner's "Aisha" and Thomas' own "Blues For McVouty") to the four quartet numbers (and a quintet number to boot), Thomas exudes a sharp sense of extensions at every turn. That is, he can dig gleefully into Ellington with abounding fat tone; tackle Kenny Dorham's more shaded tones with an apropos ingathered calm; and churn Charlie Parker's classic "Cheryl" with a Coltranesque approach to the soprano saxophone's fringes. Indeed "Cheryl" the CD's opener, leaps out of the gate with an unaccompanied pass over the melody from Thomas and Phil Sparks, dealing the bop gem a glancing reshaping that seems only possible from Thomas on a recording so imbued with his wood shedding 'home team' (as opposed to his last batch of side players, who seemed so set in their ways they were unlikely to catch the spark of Thomas' inventiveness). Pianists Travis Shook, Larry Fuller and Craig Hoyer each deserve credit for backing Thomas with mercurial palettes that suggest they were thoroughly 'at home' on their respective outings and were encouraged to explore. Though I began this review with a free (r) jazz lineage to multi-instrumentalism, it is important to note that Thomas' roots/routes are as boppish as could be. But his daring energy - a profuse ability to execute original, re-contoured renditions of tunes not his own - is grandly pleasing. Who could find fault with a program that offers "Whims Of Chambers" in an outleaning bag amidst so many other oddities. I recommend this one.

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By W.Y., Rapport Magazine - Vol.18 #6

Thomas, a decade later, is a more assured and venturesome musician, playing not only trumpet but also alto and tenor saxes, and flutes, knows his fuller capabilities and obviously has worked here to please himself as well as his listeners, to hell with fame and fortune. Listen to his version of All Too Soon on tenor sax and you'd never know that this instrument was his second choice. Thomas is a consummate musician and this rendition -- warm, full-bodied, close to the chest and heart -- proves that without question. But Cheryl is a musical jigsaw that tests a listener's patience. A mosaic of sorts, Thomas works a soprano sax on this one while Shook's piano offers support then a forward thrust. Bassist Phil Sparks, too, gets a share in the patchwork effect. Credit must be given for all of the musicians' courage in attempting such an abstract, challenging work.

A nice, fluid waltz simply titled A Waltz is another Kenny Dorham tune and Thomas works an impressive number of musical registers on his trumpet, and there's even a trombone passage by Greg Schroeder that helps out. Why Not ? gives Bill Ramsay the alto sax solo with Fuller on the piano and Thomas on trumpet filling the gaps. The music is an easy walk for listeners but obviously complex for the players. McCoy Tyner's Aisha gives us a mellow Thomas trumpet with Gary Shutes working his trombone effectively. Tyner never writes easy stuff so, while it is interesting enough for listeners, they will appreciate it the more times they hear it.

The only standard is My Ideal with Thomas on alto flute, obviously comfortable as he ventures afield from the main theme to display flourishes and hues that graph his musical technique upon the tune. Fuller takes strong piano licks here also adding his personal fringes to the fabric. The closer is Duke Ellington's Isfahan, again Thomas' adventurous turn on what was always a complex item from Duke's catalogue. But Thomas, 10 years later than on his first disc, knows he can deliver on any instrument and does. Doug Miller's bass and Fuller's piano wander over various avenues of the creation. This disc will effectively intrigue and fascinate listeners while entertaining them.