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.”
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