Sunday, October 12, 2008

Autumn Nocturne

Autumn in Lewiston, Maine. The music to accompany the slide show is a favorite piece of music of my father's, Claude Thornhill's Autumn Nocturne. Thornhill was one of the great underrated big band leaders and composers
from wikipedia
Claude Thornhill (August 10, 1909 at Terre Haute, Indiana-July 1, 1965, New York City) was an American pianist, arranger and bandleader. As a youth, he was recognized as an extraordinary talent and formed a traveling duo with Danny Polo, a musical prodigy on the clarinet and trumpet from nearby Clinton, Indiana. As a student at Garfield High School in Terre Haute, he played with several theater bands. After playing for Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman, Ray Noble, and Billie Holiday, and arranging "Loch Lomond" and "Annie Laurie" for Maxine Sullivan, in 1940 he founded his Claude Thornhill Orchestra. Danny Polo was his lead clarinet player. Although the Thornhill band was originally a sophisticated dance band it became known for its many superior jazz musicians and for Thornhill's and Gil Evans' innovative arrangements; its "Portrait of a Guinea Farm" has become a classic jazz recording. The band played without vibrato so that the timbres of the instruments could be better appreciated, and Thornhill encouraged the musicians to develop cool-sounding tones. The band was popular with both musicians and the public; the Miles Davis Nonet was modelled in part on Thornhill's cool sound. The band's most successful records were "Snowfall," "A Sunday Kind of Love," and "Love for Love." The band ceased operation in 1942 when Thornhill entered the military, where he performed with Artie Shaw's United States Navy band, then was revived from 1946 to 1948 in New York and until 1953 on the road. In the mid 1950s Thornhill became Tony Bennett's musical director briefly, then toured with small groups. He offered his big band library to Gerry Mulligan when Gerry formed the Concert Jazz Band, but Gerry regretfully declined the gift, since his instrumentation was different. A large portion of his extensive library of music is currently held by Drury University in Springfield, Missouri.

from an Amazon review of one of his recordings
Upon Thornhill's death, Duke Ellington remarked, "The world will never know what it has lost in this beautiful man.") Why and how Thornhill has been ignored for so long is a mystery to me and other lovers of just plain good music.

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