Claude Thornhill - if it wasn't for this guy, Miles Davis' Birth of the Cool may have sounded a lot different.
Claude Thornhill – if it wasn’t for this guy, Miles Davis’ Birth of the Cool may have sounded a lot different.

. . . or click on the link here for Audio Player – ABC Radio – Claude Thornhill – Live At The Hotel Pennsylvania – Sept. 22, 1947 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection.

In the history of Jazz, one of those names which gets mentioned occasionally is that of Claude Thornhill. Often mistaken for one of the “sweet bands” of the period, the Claude Thornhill band was one of the most innovative aggregations to come out of the Big Band era. And even though leaders like Stan Kenton are often cited as one of the main figures in the Postwar Big Band period, it was Thornhill who paved the way for some of the revolutionary ideas to change the face of Jazz.

Collaborating with such figures as Gil Evans, Gerry Mulligan, Lee Konitz and many others. It was Evans’ pivotal work with Claude Thornhill which paved the way for the milestone Birth Of The Cool, which ushered into prominence the career of Miles Davis and launched the entire “cool-school” of Jazz.

So Claude Thornhill was no slouch and no purveyor of “sweet-middle-of-the-road” dance music. And even though he has been relegated to background status, his innovations and point of view were pivotal in forming the future work of others.

Luckily, network Radio from the 1930s to 1950s was very much committed to offering live Jazz on a regular basis and it’s fortunate that much of Claude Thornhill’s work has survived. This particular broadcast from ABC Radio, features the band during their stay at the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York and was aired on September 22nd 1947.


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