The Claude Thornhill Orchestra was a unique big band, a "sweet" orchestra with strong jazz sensibilities that helped lead the way toward West Coast cool jazz. Often having his reed section play five clarinets without vibrato, emphasizing long atmospheric tones, and performing dreamy ballads, Thornhill also kept his band open to the influence of bebop. This CD starts off with Thornhill's radio transcriptions of 1949-1950, a time when his band included few major names but still had a strong and unique ensemble sound. The final 14 selections are from a two-day session in 1953 that ranks among Thornhill's last significant recordings. The band, which included Gene Quill and Med Flory on altos, mostly performs the arrangements of Gerry Mulligan, tenor saxophonist Ralph Aldridge, and Thornhill. It still sounded unique, and as out of place in the 1950s jazz world as it had a decade earlier. Overall, the highlights of this set of rarities include "Moonlight Bay," "Anthropology," the beautiful "Autumn Nocturne," "Mambo Nothing," "Jeru," two versions of "Summer Is Gone," and "Five Brothers."
AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow