THE BIG BAND SOUND OF THAD JONES – MEL LEWIS featuring MISS RUTH BROWN
LP Solid State, 1968 (USA)
Being at home for a few weeks, after years overseas, I have the time to listen to some of my “forgotten” LPs, albums that I hadn’t listened to for many years. It is always pleasant to rediscover an album such as this one.
When I bought it (on a flea market, as usual) some thirty years ago if not more, I was familiar with the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra - I had been lucky to catch them live at one of the Middelheim jazz festivals in the seventies – and I knew Ruth Brown as a Rhythm & Blues singers, thru’ her classic sides on Atlantic in the 50s. But I didn’t know her as a jazz singer. And a fine jazz singer she is, and a great song stylist also. The combination with the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra works perfectly. The big band sound never overwhelms Brown’s voice. Coming from a RnB background, Miss Brown is not one to be scared by some solid - but never overloud - big band arrangements.
AMG review (Steve Loewy): It was a great, even inspired idea to pair diva Ruth Brown with the Thad Jones & Mel Lewis Orchestra. Although the solid results speak for themselves, the listener is left with a distinct sense that more might have happened. As it is, these studio sessions showcase the vocalist to reasonably good effect, belting out several numbers with which she was intimately familiar. Whether the big band sound (with its loud brass) overwhelms Brown's voice is open to conjecture, but what isn't at issue are the fine, tight arrangements performed by a group of seasoned veterans, some of the best in the field. Jazz enthusiasts might have wished for more (or longer) solos, but the essential style and straight-ahead quality of the band are never compromised. Brown gives powerful renditions of well-known tunes such as "Bye Bye Blackbird," "Yes Sir, That's My Baby," "I'm Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town," and others. Highlights include short improvisations by Thad Jones on flugelhorn, Pepper Adams on baritone sax, and Eddie Daniels on tenor. Brown fans should be pleased, as she booms forth soul and blues in her own characteristic way.
LP side A:
"Yes Sir, That's My Baby"
"Trouble in Mind"
"Bye Bye Blackbird"
"I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town"
LP side B:
"Be Anything (but Be Mine)"
"You Won't Let Me Go"
"Fine Brown Frame"
Ruth Brown – vocals
Thad Jones – flugelhorn / Snooky Young – trumpet / Richard Williams – trumpet / Jimmy Nottingham – trumpet / Danny Moore – trumpet / Bill Berry – trumpet
Garnett Brown – trombone / Jimmy Knepper – trombone / Cliff Heather – trombone / Jimmy Cleveland – trombone
Jerome Richardson – alto saxophone / Jerry Dodgion – alto saxophone
Eddie Daniels – tenor saxophone / Seldon Powell – tenor saxophone
Pepper Adams – baritone saxophone
Roland Hanna – piano
Richard Davis – bass
Mel Lewis – drums
Produced by Sonny Lester
Ripped from the original - well played - LP. I kept the noise reduction to a minimum, it sounds like an LP ... If you want a cleaner sound, get the CD reissue if you can find it (as part of the OOP Mosaic set "The Complete Solid State Recordings of TJ ML Orchestra")