Jazz CD Reviews

Patrick Williams – Threshold – Composed, arranged & conducted by Patrick Williams with 27-piece orchestra – Artist Share

This is the 35th Anniversary of one of the most listenable big band albums ever produced.

Published on August 31, 2008

Patrick Williams – Threshold – Composed, arranged & conducted by Patrick Williams with 27-piece orchestra – Artist Share

Patrick Williams – Threshold – Composed, arranged & conducted by Patrick Williams with 27-piece orchestra – Artist Share AS0080, 37:24 *****:

This is the 35th Anniversary of one of the most listenable big band albums ever produced and many will be very thankful it has been reissued.  Sadly, for decades it was available only directly from its creator, having been originally released back in the LP days of the early 70s. Patrick Williams is a composer and arranger based in New York who wrote scores and themes for various movies and TV, including Bob Newheart, Mary Tyler Moor, The Streets of San Francisco and Columbo.  Some of his film scores have been Breaking Away, The Grass Harp, and That Old Feeling.

Williams’ pet project of Threshold differed from most big bands in his augmentation of the usual instrumentation with French horns,  harp and a string section.  Some of the soloists in his orchestra were Tom Scott on reeds, Marvin Stamm on trumpet (who had played with Don Ellis), Larry Carlton and Dennis Budimir on guitars, Mike Melvoin on keyboards and Larry Bunker on percussion.  Threshold provided the opportunity for a number of these studio musicians to take some extensive solos and do more than they could in restrictive studio work.

There are five tracks, all by Williams. The opener, And On the Sixth Day, starts with a quote of the famous Also Sprach Zarathustra theme which was very hot about then due to the film 2001, but soon leaves it. Both Stamm and Scott take some roaring solos.  A sinister tone is set up with The Witch – could be for one of Williams detective story scores – and percussionist Larry Bunker plays a hard-swinging marimba solo.  The shortest track is the rather sad-sounding A Lady Beside Me, which mixes vocalese with tenor sax and cello.  William’s closing  track, Mr. Smoke, seems to be referring to his front cover shot smoking a big cigar.  It features a number of sounds not usually heard in big band outings: harmonica in the intro, a great flute solo, and then a switch by Scott to soprano sax.  This watershed album was ahead of its time in bringing together elements of classical, rock and jazz in an un-self-conscious way that could swing mightily.  Such genre-breaking has become more widespread in today’s musical world, but Threshold set the style.

TrackList: And On the Sixth Day, The Witch, Threshold, A Lady Beside Me, Mr. Smoke.

 - John Henry




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