Blues For McVouty

Jay Thomas
『Blues for McVouty』

McVouty Records – MCVCD6250

1. Blues For McVouty
2. Easy Living
3. Hallucination
4. Django
5. Simple Measures
6. Everything I Love
7. Lover Man
8. Moose The Mooche
9. Detour Ahead
10. Big Foot
11. Close Enough For Love
12. Love Letters

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The Musicians: Chuck Israels is a bass player that I’ve gotten to know well and I think he is great! Come to think of it, so did Bill Evans, Bud Powell, John Coltrane and other musicians who worked with him.
Cedar Walton doesn’t need an introduction. He’s been a major player of the music over the past three decades; from his early years with the Jazz Messengers to the present as a leader with his own trio. He has always been at the top of everybody’s list as both a composer and piano player.
Dave Peterson is a well-kept Pacific Northwest secret. He has a beautiful sound on guitar, a swinging feel and a sophisticated harmonic sense. On my last conversation with Cedar he remarked again on how impressed he was with Dave’s playing.
Becca Duran makes a guest appearance vocally and I think she sounds fantastic!
Billy Higgins is the one person who really makes this project happen. He brings such a high level of commitment and musicianship to the session. Billy has so much fun on the drums that it is absolutely contagious — Thank you, Billy. I am proud to be your friend.

The Music: “Blues for McVouty” is one of my two originals. The head is based on Lester Young’s opening statement on “DB Blues”. DB is short for Detention Barracks in reference to Lester’s problems with the U.S. Army. The rhythm section really gets down to business and sizzles from the very first note. Cedar is a really great blues player — probably his Texas roots showing through. Chuck Israels shows us that he is still an innovator and one of the great bassists of modern jazz. I left my first take tenor solo on the tape, then a friend transcribed the solo, we arranged it for tenors and baritone and I then put all the parts down under the original solo. I’m sure Slim would have liked this tune and arrangement…
“Easy Living”, “Detour Ahead” and “Lover Man” are the three ballads on this recording. I chose “Easy Living” because it has always seemed a trumpet feature since I heard Clifford Brown on an old Blue Note release. I love the feeling coming back into the bridge after Cedar’s solo when Billy goes to sticks — pure heaven! I choose “Detour Ahead” because it’s a great song and it happens I have a close musical relationship with the song’s composer, guitarist Herb Ellis. Lover Man is a jazz classic and I particularly like the ascending guitar and bass line that Chuck Israels thought up for the arrangement.
“Everything I Love” is a very sophisticated song by Cole Porter featuring vocalist Becca Duran. She sings with a silky sound and a sprightly feel. Billy takes the chorus after Becca, followed by a trumpet/drum exchange, and then Cedar digs in for a study in Be-Bop piano mastery.
“Close Enough For Love” starts out delicately with guitar and bass. When the flugelhorn comes in after the guitar solo Billy goes to sticks and drives like crazy while firmly rooted in the original medium slow tempo. “Big Foot”, “Hallucination” and “Moose the Mooche” are the three bop tunes. We played these right down with a minimum of fuss. The playing evokes the sound of early be-bop without being overly reverent. Be sure to check out Billy’s solo on Moose the Mooche. Where do the sounds come from?
“Django”, a composition by John Lewis, evokes a plaintive gypsy sound and image. Billy’s march feel reminds me of Mile’s Sketches of Spain. Also in evidence is Cedar’s talent for instantaneous arrangements while improvising or comping behind a soloist. A first take, believe it or not.
“Simple Pleasures” is the other original I brought to the session. Latin throughout, with a four section in the middle, it features the sound of guitar and flugelhorn ala Art Farmer and Jim Hall. Guitar and flugelhorn make great companions. (Same tune, titled Touch & Go is on Travis Shook’s new CD just released by Columbia Records. Play it please. As Slim would say, “I need the green”).
“Love Letters” is a standard that swings hard all the way. In the studio it pretty much played itself — which when looking back, could be said for the entire session.
Keep swinging!! — Jay Thomas

post script — in case you happen to be a Slim Gaillard fan — I happen to be a living repository of Slim Stories and Slim Adventures. Call anytime for them. Vout-o-rooney ! O-roonee-mo!!

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“Blues For McVouty” REVIEWS

By Doug Ramsey, Jazz Times

Thomas, a protégé of Slim Gaillard, named Blues For McVouty in honor of his mentor. But don’t expect emulations of Gaillard’s hip nonsense. Rather, Thomas provides the modern mainstream satisfactions of his trumpet, flugelhorn and tenor saxophone, which, if he were headquartered in New York instead of Seattle, might have made him as well known as he deserves to be.

With the rhythm section of pianist Cedar Walton, bassist Chuck Israels, drummer Billy Higgins and young guitarist Dave Peterson, Thomas plays two originals and a variety of jazz classics and superior standards. His fluidity and control impart a surface smoothness that could lull the casual listener into overlooking the daring of his improvisations, particularly on the valve instruments. In this, he has a good deal in common with Art Farmer and Tom Harrell, although his approach is independent.

Two aspects of that approach can be heard in Johnny Mandel’s “Close Enough For Love” and Cole Porter’s “Everything I Love”. In the Mandel piece, taken at a medium walk, Thomas, unhurried and thoughtful, caresses the melody. “Everything I Love” is a romp. It begins with a fine vocal by Becca Duran (Mrs. Thomas) and includes a trumpet solo notable for the agility of Thomas’ interval leaps, the uniformity of his tone from bottom to top and the unity of his ideas. Higgins and Walton have impressive solos here.

It’s good to hear Israels on a new recording, but his bass, except for solos, is a bit indistinct either in the mix or the miking. Peterson seems to have been influenced by Jim Hall and Jimmy Raney, and his solos are delightful. Muted, Thomas is as effective on the ballad “Lover Man” as he is steaming along on Charlie Parker’s up-tempo “Big Foot”. His flute is not heard on this album. His tenor saxophone is, mostly in ensembles. Solos on “Detour Ahead” and “Love Letters” however, disclose a tenor tone with nearly the clarity of his trumpet but a solo conception more restrained.

It has been seven years since the last Jay Thomas album.The next one should come much sooner. While it’s good to hear him with established stars like Walton, Higgins and Israels, how about Thomas and accomplished Northwest players in addition to Peterson? That other Seattle trumpet/tenor double threat, Floyd Standifer, comes to mind. So do the great pianist Jack Brownlow, Chuck Metcalf, a bassist to be reckoned with, and the interesting young trombonist Jeff Hay.

In the meantime, Blues For McVouty is a recording that Slim Gaillard would be proud of. Rating: four o-roonies and a big bowl of avocado seed soup with reety-pooty sauce on the side.

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By Tim Price, Saxophone Journal – January/February 1994 Volume 18

Drop what you’re doing and buy this disc now! Jay Thomas plays trumpet, flugelhorn, tenor sax, flute and alto sax like a demon. The music he creates is nothing less than wonderful. This release will verify his position as one of the very best jazz musicians in music today, bar none! To play trumpet and reed instruments is a feat in itself. To play Bud Powell tunes and Bird tunes like a person born in that era is a revelation. Jay’s musical coherence, his fearsomely melodic, and virtuosic technique put me in a froth! The rhythm section of Billy Higgins on drums, Chuck Israels on bass and the magic of Cedar Walton will let you know that Jay’s choices are happening, from the top shelf too! I love his trumpet playing and his dark round tenor playing. His playing on Bud Powell’s Hallucinations is dizzying. Everything he blows is nailed to the groove. Yet his velvety kind of sensibility comes through on Detour Ahead and Lover Man. Jay shows a personal and pleasing ballad approach here, very versatile. I like his constant pushing of harmonic corners, aggressive, yet never hijacking the groove. Cedar Walton’s always playing rapid fire bop piano without sounding as if he’s breaking a sweat.

Back to the star of this date, Jay Thomas. Here is a player improvising without a net, but entirely melodious. His playing shines through like a beacon. Without question he is a serious musician with commitment and bold self-dedication to true jazz. He’s a multi-instrumental player who’s multi-dimensional! This is an amazing display of a wonderful distinct personality whose music will never become tireless. His are definitive results via highly recommended music. Special thanks to my buddy Bert Wilson, who had Jay on a Nonet bootleg tape of a live gig, which turned me on to Jay’s talents. Thanks, brother Bert!

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By David Dupont, Cadence Magazine – July 1993

Seattle used to be a place considered outside the major music centers, which probably allowed its music scene in many categories to develop in such a way that the characterization is no longer true. Still Jay Thomas’ release has a lot of those qualities found on the better regional releases. One is a sense of playing for love, rather than money. This comes to the listener as a labor of love not a career move. On four tracks Thomas teams up with Cedar Walton with whom he co-led his last date (9/90, p. 82-83). But Thomas is the focus here. As you might expect of someone who worked with Slim Gaillard, Thomas blows bop with the joyousness of swing. He plays tough, tuneful tenor, and his trumpet playing is as confident as his tenor playing. Just listen, for example, to his negotiation of “Hallucination.” He loves blues, bop and ballads, but he navigates this territory with a fresh set of ears – nothing sounds hackneyed. Guitarist Peterson, Israels and Walton provide complimentary solos. As a leader also has the knack of giving tunes an unexpected twist. The arrangement of the one vocal track, “Everything I Love” is a masterful, framed as much as a drum feature as a soft vocal. It kicks off with just Duran singing over Billy Higgins’ brushes with the rest of the rhythm section gradually mixing in. The piece includes a duet for Thomas’ trumpet and Higgins. Nothing groundbreaking here, just good fundamentals and fun.