The Jazz Crusade Audio Sampler Catalog
JCCD-3065: “The Thomas Band at Moose Hall 1968 Vol. 2” -
Kid Thomas

Personnel: Kid Thomas Valentine [tp], Emanuel Paul [tsx], Louis Nelson [tb], Charlie Hamilton [pn], Joseph “Twat” Butler [sbs], Sammy Penn [dm]

Songs: Sweet Georgia Brown, Down By the Riverside, Tin Roof Blues, Bourbon Street Parade, Girl Of My Dreams, Over the Waves, Oh! Lady Be Good, Algiers Waltz, Bill Bailey, In The Mood / I'll See You In My Dreams.

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Reviews for:
JCCD-3065: “The Thomas Band at Moose Hall 1968 Vol. 2” -
Kid Thomas

IAJRC Journal—U. S. Jazz Magazine

These two discs represent either most or all of a concert done by the Kid Thomas band for the Connecticut Traditional Jazz Club in October, 1968. I'm not sure if the actual sequence of numbers played that night is represented here or whether the program was changed to suit the release. In any event, if budget considerations dictate purchasing one or the other, I would go with Volume 1, which has the strongest performances overall.
This band is somewhat different than the stereotypical New Orleans trad band of the 1960s - the substitution of Emanuel Paul's tenor sax for the usual clarinet in the front line imparts a darker sound to the ensemble, further enhanced by Paul's predilection for the low register of his instrument. I would guess that the members of this group would never have identified themselves as "Dixieland" musicians in this context - rather, that they would have seen their group as first and foremost a dance band. The tempos of the tunes are neither very slow nor very fast, clearly showing the leader's concern with presenting something dance-able. Tunes such as In The Mood, I'll See You In My Dreams, The Object Of My Affection and especially a waltz and an extended boogie woogie number were not usually presented by Dixieland groups of that period, but were likely important parts of the dancehall fare in New Orleans during the time these musicians were most active.
The band itself had been together for quite a while at the time of this concert. Kid Thomas himself had been leading bands in New Orleans since the late 1920s, although mostly on the fringes of what would be called "Traditional" or even "New Orleans" Jazz in its most recognized form. By the 1960s, Thomas' group was clearly a synthesis of many different influences - New Orleans, Swing, blues, Rhythm & Blues and even Rock & Roll, with all its component parts being distilled into a functional dance unit. Of the band members performing on this concert, Sammy Penn and Paul were the longest serving, with their tenures each stretching back twenty-five years. Louis Nelson had been with the group since 1954, Joseph "Twat" Butler joined in 1960 and Char-lie Hamilton in 1965. For the most part, these musicians stayed with Thomas until their playing careers ended - Penn died less than a year after this recording, but Nelson and Paul were still playing into the 1980's.
Halfway through the first CD it is clear that the band is no pickup group - they obviously have routines and sequences well worked out. While the ensemble sound is sometimes a bit rough, the presentation is excellent, as are the solos for the most part. For me, the standout musician on these discs is Nelson, whose trombone playing is remarkable for its range in terms of dynamics and color. His solo on Blueberry Hill and his first chorus on Girl Of My Dreams demonstrate a refined technique while his work on Bourbon Street and Sweet Sue show a boisterousness more in keeping with the classic tailgate trombone style.
The leader's trumpet playing is incisive and economical - his style was bound by the constraints of leading the ensemble, although he takes a beautifully understated solo on Blueberry Hill. Emanuel Paul's tenor sax playing is very different from the usual concept of a Jazz saxophone sound. While occasionally coarse in the manner of the early R&B "honkers," Paul is capable of much greater tonal sophistication, as he shows on Algiers Waltz. Charlie Hamilton was somewhat handicapped by being under-recorded at this concert as well as having to deal with a piano of very questionable mechanics, but his solos show a great affinity for the early styling of Earl Hines. Butler is a no-frills bass player who was occasionally called on to take a novelty (and often incomprehensible) vocal. Penn was renowned for his showmanship both behind the drums and at the microphone and here sings Girl of My Dreams. He also maintains a solid beat which, combined with Butler's propulsive thumping, must have been irresistible to dancers.
On a technical note, the sound quality of these recordings is nothing short of excellent - the wonderful stereo on these discs is a welcome change from the usual 'live' recording sound.
- John Clark


AMG EXPERT REVIEW

This is the second volume of a live performance by Kid Thomas Valentine and his band at Moose Hall. A tape was made of the proceedings, but languished in the vaults of the Connecticut Jazz Club for more than 32 years. Thomas was a native of New Orleans and started playing in the streets of the Crescent City at the age of ten. At 72 in this performance, Thomas has been thoroughly soaked with more than 60 years of playing New Orleans traditional jazz and every note that comes from him and his fellow musicians reflects that noble tradition. Along with Thomas is trombonist Louis Nelson and tenor saxman Manny Paul, who have both been associated with Thomas since 1944 and 1942, respectively. Although Nelson was an unabashed admirer of Tommy Dorsey, he doesn't let it get in the way of his tailgate tromboning on such cuts as "Oh! Lady Be Good" and especially on one of the staples of this musical style, "Sweet Georgia Brown." Paul is reminiscent of the role the sax had in early New Orleans music. His work is particularly prominent on a rather slow-paced, off-center "In the Mood." Despite his age, Thomas holds his own, although on this volume he relinquishes a good deal of the solo time to the other members of the band. Joseph "Twat" Butler not only lays down the rhythmic floor, but has a lot of fun vocalizing on "Down by the Riverside." Even though the musical agenda was made up of long-standing staples in the traditional jazz book, judging from their reaction, the audience was pleased to hear them one more time, even though the playing got a bit ragged toward the end. The sound is remarkably good given the length of time these original tapes laid unattended. Recommended.
- Dave Nathan


Cadence Magazine - U. S. A.

This is the second volume of Kid Thomas' 1968 show at the Moose Hall. The set at this frisky, bouncy affair is a healthy mix of jazz classics, religious pieces, the blues and popular tunes. Every one gets his turn to blow, though there are highlights. Trombonist Louis Nelson, especially on Down by the Riverside, distinguishes himself. And the horns are identifiable and separate voices; they fancy different flavors. Consider Algiers Waltz or Bill Bailey, instances of the front line's diversity and strength, with Manny Paul's shakey, quivering tenor; Nelson's bold, surefooted trombone and Valentine's dramatic trumpet. After a three horn front line, pianist Charlie Hamilton may fill in, a moment of clearheaded simplicity. Not that the horns are chaotic by any means. Bassist Joseph Butler, the vocalist, is delightful, warm and rousing on Down by the Riverside and Bourbon Street Parade. And when drummer Sammy Penn takes his vocal turn drifting in and out on Girl of My Dreams, he too is an altogether avuncular character.
- Greg Buium


Mississippi Rag - U. S. A.

These two CDs recorded at a Connecticut Traditional Jazz Club concert bring us the Kid Thomas Valentine band at the height of its powers in the late 1960s, with a standard repertory of Thomas' favorite tunes. The band was made up of Thomas, trumpet; Manuel Paul, tenor sax; Louis Nelson, trombone; Charlie Hamilton, piano; Joseph Butler, bass; and Sammy Penn, drums. The inimitable and sweet Joe James was gone from the piano stool, but the rest of the band is the basic Kid Thomas aggregation - as comfortable with each other as six musicians likely ever get.
Thomas was by then 72 but ageless, Nelson and Paul playing effortlessly and Sammy Penn in his usual forceful form. His unique thrashing drum style is clearly captured here, without sounding overbearing. Joseph Butler plays and sings with all his usual effervescent energy. The numbers are relaxed, casual but driving, and Thomas' laconic lead is as spare and effective as ever. Solo space is given more to Nelson's sweet singing style and Manuel Paul's bluesy honking.
The basic Thomas set-pieces are all here - Penn singing froggily on "Girl of My Dreams," Butler's blues-hollering style on "Down by the Riverside" and "Four Leaf Clover," Thomas himself singing and clowning on "Eh! La Bas." The band's signature tunes are played with gusto - "Algiers Strut," "Kid Thomas Boogie Woogie" -along with a sprinkling of jazz and pop standards. The concert gives a pretty fair picture of this archetypal New Orleans dance-hall band of the 1950s, as it might have sounded on a working night at the Happy Landing or some other smoky neighborhood tavern-dance joint.
All the musicians seem in fine fettle here, the recorded sound is quite good, with only a few faded spots on some vocals. Otherwise, this is like a fresh sonic Polaroid snapshot of the Thomas band. If you don't know this unique variant on basic New Orleans jazz, these two CDs give an excellent introduction to the whole band, Kid Thomas Valentine and each of the bright, idiosyncratic jazz personalities who worked with him.
- William J. Schafer


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