This album compiles recordings the Claude Thornhill Orchestra made for RCA Victor during the little more than a year he was under contract with the label. Released on RCA's bargain-priced Camden label, these cuts capture another of Thornhill's aggregations that he put together while moving toward becoming a bop-oriented band. In addition to himself, and he was no slouch, arrangers in Thornhill's camp included Gil Evans, whose subsequent lengthy association with Miles Davis has been well documented. The unique instrumental voicing and harmonies created by mixing French horns with clarinets were a hallmark of the group and are heard on lovely arrangements of "Where or When" and "Embraceable You." (If you were a reed player and the clarinet was not among your instruments, forget about playing for Thornhill.) But the band could hit up-tempos as well in its own unusual syncopated way as with "Oh, Lady Be Good" and "Fascinatin' Rhythm." Thornhill's one-finger piano playing was also still providing the direction for the outfit, a technique that fits perfectly with his haunting theme, "Snowfall." But not everything on this LP is all that distinctive. After all, Thornhill played for dancers and he could not ignore commercial, routine material like "There's a Small Hotel" and "Sweet and Lovely," with saccharine vocals by Russ McIntyre and the Snowflakes. This album represents another chapter in the musical evolution and pilgrimage of a band with one of the most out of the ordinary and pleasant sounds in the history of the genre.
Dinner for Two Review
by Dave Nathan