Lucky Thompson (ts, ss), Christian Bellest (tp), Nat Peck, Jimmy Cleveland (tb), Jo Hrasko (as), Marcel Hrasko (ts, bs), William Boucaya, Sahib Shihab (bs), Martial Solal, Alice Coltrane, Bud Powell (p), Jimmy Gourley (g), Pierre Michelot, Buddy Catlett (b), Kenny Clarke (d), Thelma Thompson (vcl)
Reference: FSRCD 948
Bar code: 8427328609487
Lucky Thompson was still just 35 when these TV broadcasts heard on this CD were recorded in 1960. Thompson is not only heard on tenor but on soprano-sax, an instrument that Lucky had taken up the previous year. The first eight titles were performed at the Club Saint-Germain on May 28, and on five of the eight numbers, Thompson leads an eight-piece orchestra comprised of top French jazzmen (other than expatriates Nat Peck and Kenny Clarke). Pianist Martial Solal (an original even then), and bassist Pierre Michelot, became major attractions.
The music from the Blue Note, which was recorded three months earlier on February 13, has Thompson leading an octet that again includes Jo Hrasko and Kenny Clarke but also features such Americans as trumpeter Lenny Johnson, the great trombonist Jimmy Cleveland, baritonist Sahib Shihab, and bassist Buddy Catlett. Thompson’s wife, Thelma Thompson, takes effective vocals on two songs apiece with each version of the Octet, showing that she also deserves to be remembered.
It is a pity that both of the Lucky Thompson octets did not last longer but quite fortunate that they have been saved for posterity due to their appearances on the TV.
The last two performances at the Blue Note, are also historically significant as Lucky Thompson leads a quartet and a quintet featuring two different pianists who certainly made their mark on jazz history. Alice Coltrane (then known by her maiden name of Alice McLeod), and Bud Powell, the founder of bebop piano, who had settled in France in 1959 and was enjoying a renaissance, performing regularly with Michelot and Clarke as “The Three Bosses.”
"If not as arresting (or as well-recorded) as the Fresh Sound 1956-1959 large and small group Thompson sets I reviewed in October’s JJ, these 1960 Paris sessions are worth a mass. On several tracks - most notably Yesterdays - Lucky plays soprano (an instrument he had only taken up during the previous year). On You Move, You Lose, his rapid tenor exchanges with an unusually heavy-handed Clarke result in little of value. Lucky’s vocalist wife, Thelma, features on While You Are Gone and Yesterday’s Bottle, but not surprisingly, has little success with her composer-husband’s pedestrian lyrics.
Things improve (sonically and artistically) on the tracks recorded at the Blue Note, with the warming presence of Jimmy Cleveland, Lenny Johnson, Sahib Shihab and Buddy Catlett. Shihab and Johnson swap robust choruses, with Catlett and Clarke propelling them along on Fanfare, and take longer solos on Thin Ice. On several other Blue Note tracks, Lucky stays rather in the background, while Mrs Thompson - despite sympathetic instrumental support - brings little fervour to the ironically titled Deep Passion, but is more successful on a blues-inflected Bitter Sweet. Lucky blows some rather ear-piercing soprano on The World Awakes, followed by a gruff and cogent solo from Cleveland. Home Free (despite muzzy sound) is an ebullient outing for all concerned, underwritten by Clarke and Catlett.
Alice Coltrane (under her maiden name Alice McLeod) joins with Lucky (on soprano) to create an emotional version of Lover Man. The incomplete final track has Thompson weaving a haunting tenor solo with yeoman support from Michelot, Clarke and Gourley and a remarkably effervescent Bud Powell on a hectic and appropriately boppish Anthropology."
Jazz Journal (February, 2017)
"Listening to sounds from the past helps put the present jazz scene in proper perspective. Last year a ton of historical material by the overlooked Lucky Thompson finally saw the light of day,and this collection of Parisian gigs from 1960 feature the hard swinging saxist in some hip settings, ranging from trio to octet.
A rhythm team of Kenny Clarke/dr, Pierre Michelot/b and Martial Solal/p provide the foundation for finger snapping “Check Out Time” and “Nothin’ But the Soul with added husky vocals by Thelma Thompson on “While You Are Gone” and a bluesy “Yesterday’s Bottle.” A gig including the horns of Lenny Johnson/tp, Jimmy Cleveland/tb, Jo Hrasko/as, Marcel Hrasko and Thompson have the team cruising like a B8 on “Bitter Sweet,” “Home Free” and a richly harmonized “Yesterdays” with Thompson switching to soprano on the latter, while he sounds exquisite with a pre married to Coltrane Alice McLeod/p, Pierre Michelot/b and Clarke/dr on a wondrous “Lover Man.” You can never get enough of this guy; each find gets better. "
George W. Harris (January 15, 2018)