Rufus Reid's liner notes describe Jones as having "a unique ability to be free and easy going at the same time." The remarkable multi-instrumentalist Scott Robinson demonstrates that same strength as he salutes Thad Jones and his music. He is a master of each of his varied instruments. Reeds or brass. Familiar or obscure. It just doesn't matter.
On Forever Lasting, Robinson's instrumentation and the Jones tunes run the gamut. The catchy opener, "Quietude," features Robinson on C-flute with a rhythm section with Richard Wyands on piano. The album ends with "Greetings and Salutations" as Mike Le Donne is added on Hammond B-3 and Robinson takes that funky tune lowdown with his contrabass sarrusophone. Both numbers are from the 2002 studio session that accounts for over half of this release. Le Donne and his B-3 also appear in three tracks from 1992, including the classic "Three and One" where Robinson substitutes bass sax for tenor to intensify that mellow organ trio sound. He plays tenor elsewhere including "All My Yesterdays" in a duet with the most sensitive of pianists (and Thad's big brother), the great Hank Jones.
The Latin-tinged "Don't Ever Leave Me" and familiar changes on "Fingers" provide further opportunities for creative multi-instrumentation. "Walkin' About," with Robinson on echo cornet captures the Jones essence while "The Summary" from The Suite for Pops is just beautiful as Robinson becomes a brass choir (flugelhorn and six french horns). And yes, "A Child is Born" is included with Robinson on theremin and alto clarinet - a perfect match of song and instruments.
Thad Jones wrote joyful arrangements that were complex to play but easy - and fun - to listen to. He had a gift for ballads. Forever Lasting is clearly a labor of love by Scott Robinson whose early interest in Jones's compositions was furthered through his performances with Mel Lewis and the Jazz Orchestra. I hope it will secure for Thad Jones the public attention he deserves.
Incidentally, this is Volume 3 of Robinson's Great American Composers Series. Jazz Ambassador: Louis Armstrong, issued by Arbors in 2004, is Volume 1. Volume 2, you ask? I hear he's reserved it for Sun Ra and I can't wait.