Dance Of The NIght Creatures

Homages 3


Dance Of The Night Creatures

Jamming together in the early ’60s, trombone virtuoso Thurman Green and bari sax giant Hamiet Bluiett swore they’d make a great album someday. That promise bore soulful fruit here—30 years later. Thurman had recorded with greats like Ella, Miles, the Ellington Orchestra and Michel Legrand. For Thurman’s session, Bluiett put together another historic cast: John Hicks on piano; Walter Booker on bass; Steve Williams on drums; and Bluiett on bari sax and contrabass clarinet. You can hear every detail of the buttery resonance of the ’bone’s bell blending with the rich growl of the bari. All this is framed by crystal clear percussion: a sonic spectacular on a big, razor-sharp soundstage. Jazz USA calls it “…flawless…the best trombone record this decade…4 1/2 Stars.” This is Thurman’s last and greatest session. (#06032)

Thurman Green, trombone
Hamiet Bluiett, bari sax/contrabass clarinet
John Hicks, piano
Walter Booker, bass
Steve Novosel, bass*
Steve Williams, drums



Minor Blue (T.Green) - Listen to sample
Passion Flower (W.Strayhorn) - Listen to full song
Dance of the Night Creatures (T.Green)
Daughter of Cochise (H.Tapscott) - Listen to sample
Lately (T.Green)
Searching for Peace (T.Green,H.Bluiett)
Struttin' With Some Barbecue (L.Hardin)
Cross Currents (T.Green)
Dem Folks (L.Hill,H.Tapscott)



reviewed by Duck Baker

Thurman Green was one of those jazzmen who spends his career doing studio work. He was 54 when he made this, his first record under his own name, and he died just three years later. The notes portray Green as a quietly positive family man, and similar qualities are evident in his music; his trombone solos and writing are thoughtful and his overriding concern with the group sound is evident. One suspects that experience gained in the studio trenches contributes to Green’s ability to write attractive, slowly developing themes, but there are some fairly avant pieces and a cover of “Struttin’ With Some Barbeque” for variety. The impetus for this session was Hamiett Bluiett, who played with Green in a Navy band in the early ‘60s. Bluiett invited the trombonist to lead this date and lent his distinctive baritone to a group including pianist John Hicks. To judge from this solid outing, it really is a pity Green didn’t start making jazz records much sooner.

November 199

Jazz USA:
Critics Corner: reviewed by Scott Yanow ****

Throughout his life, Thurman Green was thought of as a bebop-oriented trombonist. He did spend time playing in Los Angeles with swinging big bands (including the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra) but he was also an occasional member of the Horace Tapscott Quintet (one of many groups headed by the late pianist that no one bothered to record) and was open-eared enough to play quite credibly in free settings now and then.

Back in 1962, Green and baritonist Hamiet Bluiett were jamming buddies at the Navy School of Music in Washington D.C. They soon went their separate ways but hoped to team up again some day. 32 years later, in Dec. 1994, Bluiett (who has been producing quite a few worthy records for the Mapleshade label) was able to give his old friend his first opportunity to lead his own record date. It is a shame that it took over four years for the music to finally come out because, in 1997, Thurman Green suddenly passed away at the age of 57.

Bluiett (who doubles here on contrabass clarinet) plays a supportive role behind the trombonist, who is also joined by pianist John Hicks, either Walter Booker or Steve Novosel on bass and drummer Steve Williams. Some of the music (including a version of "Struttin' With Some Barbecue" which does not include Bluiett) is typically straightahead. But listeners will also be surprised to hear that a few of Green's originals (particularly "Cross Currents") include a lot of adventurous interplay between the two horns. Green was always flexible and, when Bluiett goes outside, so does the trombonist. In addition, Green and Bluiett perform a brief free improvisation ("Searching For Peace") and a pair of Horace Tapscott compositions that deserve to catch on.

Stimulating music that serves as a strong tribute to the talented and versatile trombonist Thurman Green.

June 1999

Jazz USA:
Critics Corner: reviewed by Russell Arthur Roberts *****

If there is such a thing as a five-star album that is not of the level of, say, Bird on Savoy, Miles's Kind of Blue, Trane's Giant Steps, etc. (you get my point), then the late trombonist Thurman Green's Dance of the Night Creatures qualifies. Now to reveal my bias, I have favored the trombone when in the right hands since my introduction to Lawrence Brown, J. J., Milt Bernhart, and Bennie Green in the late '40s and early '50s. And in Night Creatures, my predilection is reaffirmed.

When listening to the album over and over, the word that most consistently comes to mind is "art." Its use in jazz not only reflects the skill that each instrumentalist--also Hamiet Bluiett (baritone saxophone and contrabass clarinet), John Hicks (piano), Walter Booker or Steve Novosel (bass), and Steve Williams (drums)--possesses, but more importantly how they express themselves in relation to one another and, of course, the trueness to the concept that they had set for the music itself.

In these respects, what is so extraordinary is that at no time do you find them tripping over each other in a rush to make their personal statements despite their star credentials. Each is keenly aware of his place within the group--"a contributor, not a competitor," as the recently deceased Horace Tapscott would tell his confederates in the Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra, of which Green was a part. Moreover, it would seem that each clearly understood it was Green's artistry that was to be the main focus of the recording date.

Of the nine tunes, there is a particularly swinging "Struttin' with Some Barbecue" and a "Passion Flower" that rivals in its beauty Johnny Hodges's version, plus several by Green which were staples of the PAPA--including a syncopated "Lately" (written in memory of PAPA trombonist Lester Robertson) and the harmonious title cut--a couple of Tapscott (one with the late Linda Hill), and a freely played lament, a duet with Green and Bluiett (on baritone sax). For those who would be put off by the atonal strains of the avant-garde, rest assured that both Green's tone and demeanor provides a center to the trombonist's aptly named "Cross Currents," that incidentally has an "Epistrophy" theme. It, however, is the one true outsider in the list of nine.

It is all impressive jazz that is distinguished by its moments of subtleness and sensitivity and, too, that is discriminating in its fine construction as in (here is that word again) art.

June 1999

Jazz USA:
Critics Corner: reviewed by John Barrett ***1/2

In preparing his Explorations series for Mapleshade, Hamiet Bluiett decided to make a trombone album - a deep match for his baritone. He thought of his options, then the obvious hit him: "Why sweat to find just the right trombonist? I already got a master." Thurman Green played with Hamiet in the Navy, then went west, gigging with Harold Land, Teddy Edwards, and many others. Time had passed, but that was no concern: "Playing with a guy as good as Thurman is like riding a bicycle." They ride easy here: an interesting program (Tapscott, Strayhorn, five tunes by Thurman), a varied palette, and a steady swing. That was five years ago; released now, it's a memorial to Green, who died in 1997. Hearing this, you'll miss him, even if you didn't know him like Hamiet did.

It starts with a vengeance. Thurman weeps the theme to "Minor Blue": round and pure, the sound of a French horn. Hamiet adds low rumbles, and the two skitter along, heavy and tough. Walter Booker plucks some high notes, a bit like the kalimba. The others come slowly, and with the full band the tune has changed. We now have gentle hard bop, and great cymbals from Steve Williams. Hamiet howls to the moon: a triumphant sound of unstoppable power. Thurman is gentle, with mild burr and big notes. The blues are here, but this is hardly minor.

John Hicks rings warm as Thurman unfolds "Passion Flower." He is smooth, the notes eternal. Hicks is spare, and his every note counts. Here Green has the slightest vibrato, and it turns up the heat. Booker's bass is great, and you can see the tune blossom. That good bass leads us into "Dance of the Night Creatures," a showcase for Thurman. The theme is late-night lonely, and Green is so buttery; he's a big flugelhorn as Hicks twinkles with grace. Check the piano solo, and the hard sound of Williams. It recedes into the dark, with the 'bone ever stronger. The creatures dance, and you're about to.

"Daughter of Cochise" tributes Horace Tapscott, for whom Green played. The sinuous pulse comes from Steve Novosel (Rahsaan, Andrew White), the air sings with percussion, and Hamiet returns, this time on clarinet. He wails low, and Thurman shouts proud, his toughest sound yet. An earthy mod, dripping with thought. "Lately" is a vigorous blues, and a sound from the old days. Here he stutters, there he hints "Rhapsody in Blue." The support is vicious, with Hicks full and Williams everywhere. And "Search for Peace": is a moment of improv: the horns alone, they muse in despair while looking for respite. There's call and response, a high squeak from Hamiet, then he takes a low hum which Green joins at the end. Hamiet's cousin died the previous day, and the mourning is deep.

Maybe it's a New Orleans funeral, for next we get "Struttin' with Some Barbecue!" Thurman is happy, shining high over a modern backdrop. (Hicks hints "Pent-Up House" in his solo - now THAT is cool.) It's time to celebrate, and they did (dinner was taken at a rib joint nearby.) And the capper is "Dem Folks," another stunner by Tapscott. Hamiet has the contrabass, and Thurman wafts peacefully over a nervous riff. Hamiet begins to push the beat; the 'bone answers, and the intensity pleases. The end comes soon - it's simple and lush. With this it fades, and we cherish our brief acquaintance with the night creatures.

The disc copy says "3 Homages"; all three are honored by this album. By his testimony, Thurman Green is clearly underrated, and his Navy buddy has done him a great service. Hicks is good, Williams a joy, and Hamiet a thrill wherever he appears. Definitely worth your ears, and perhaps an excursion to find more Thurman!

June 1999

Jazz USA:
Critics Corner: reviewed by Fred Jung ****

As Americans ponder the decade that is about to pass, perhaps jazz should take a moment to recognize the greats whose voices have gone silent. Los Angeles trombonist Thurman Green will live on through Dance of the Night Creatures, arguably the finest trombone record this decade. Green's band - baritone saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett, pianist John Hicks, bassists Walter Booker and Steve Novosel, and drummer Steve Williams - swings through the nine compositions with great verve and spirited emotion.

Green's soft articulation of "Passion Flower" stirs feelings of mourning as the trombonist squeezes every drop of emotion from the Billy Strayhorn melody with the aid of Hicks, who is simply superb in his empathetic accompaniment. Bluiett is Green's ideal partner for Horace Tapscott's "Daughter of Cochise," his gentle treatment of the late pianist's poem mirrors the pleasant sensitivity of Green. The uptempo "Struttin' With Some Barbecue" emphasizes the timbral density of Green's trombone, as he, with exceptional ease, leaves the listener marveling at the leader's dexterity.

Although Green will never again be occupying the first trombone chair of the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra, his voice will continue to live on through his flawless Dance of the Night Creatures.

June 1999

Jazz USA:
Critics Corner: reviewed by Nancy Barell ****

Prior to listening to this album, I had not heard much from Thurman Green. Now, I don't know why that was. He is joined on this album by Hamiet Bluiett, an old sidekick on baritone saxophone and contrabass clarinet, John Hicks on piano, Walter Booker and Steve Novosel on bass, and Steve Williams on drums.

The lead off cut, "Minor Blue," gives a lot of space to Bluiett and he wails. When you start with such a haunting melody like on "Passion Flower," one has to be very careful not to overload it. Thurman's sensitive approach expresses a lamenting mood. Hicks's piano is carefully crafted and so lovely. Need I say more? "Daughter of Cochise" is a tribute to the native Indian sounds. The percussion of Steve Williams, going in and out with the tom tom and drums, creates the mood with Green playing the melody. Bluiett's contrabass dialogue with Green's trombone is exquisite. Novosel's entrance provides a richness and variety of color, adding to the great ensemble work. "Dem Folks" is a peaceful closing to a diverse, stimulating album.

June 1999

Jazz USA:
Critics Corner: reviewed by Elizabeth Molo ****

In 1962, while my father worked at the Navy Yard in Washington D.C. and I attended a nearby elementary school, trombonist Thurman Green and Hamiet Bluiett were jamming in our neighborhood. These musicians, unknown to me at the time, had met at the nearby Navy School of Music by the Anacostia River, forging a friendship and creative bond that I would only later appreciate. Dance of the Night Creatures is sadly, the only CD which features the late Thurman Green as a leader. Fortunately, it's an emotionally eloquent and satisfying compilation of nine tunes recorded in 1994.

Bluiett produced this work at Mapleshade Studio in Maryland, appropriately near the area where he first met Green, forty years ago. Expertly accompanying Green and Bluiett are pianist John Hicks, drummer Steve Williams and bassists Walter Booker and Steve Novosel. Notably, several of the tracks were recorded in just one or two takes and include compositions by Green's friend, the accomplished pianist and composer Horace Tapscott. All of the tunes, particularly four written by Green, highlight his chemistry with Bluiett. Just a day after the death of Bluiett's cousin, the two musicians eulogized her by improvising the haunting "Searching for Peace." This tribute, along with the recent passings of Green and Tapscott lend a spiritual tone to the entire compilation. The result is a musical treasure.

June 1999

Jazz USA:
Critics Corner: reviewed by Bart Grooms

Unknowns Worth Knowing
The last of our unknowns will never have a chance to get famous. Trombonist Thurman Green had played in the big bands and studios in L.A. for decades when his old Navy buddy Hamiet Bluiett (bari sax, bass clarinet), of World Saxophone Quartet fame, produced Dance of the Night Creatures for Mapleshade in 1994. It's a dark moody affair with an ace quintet including John Hicks (piano), Walter Booker (bass), and Steve Williams (drums). Bluiett can't resist gargling a few notes on his infrequent solos, but they're brief asides in this extended atmospheric suite of pieces, with Green's straightforward, unadorned horn hugging the melody on his originals and numbers like Billy Strayhorn's "Passion Flower". Green died in 1997, leaving this poignant document of a new career that might have been.

June 1999

All About Jazz:
reviewed by Paula Edelstein

Thurman Green’s remarkable journey through 20th century jazz has left an indelible imprint on both jazz trombonists and aficianados of low brass alike. A key innovator of avante garde/free jazz for trombone, Thurman Green is most often associated with the urban gems on the West Coast jazz scene. In 1997, Thurman Green left us with a legacy of compositions for jazz trombone, all contributing something new, each a new pearl in the strands of gifted low brass culture. Hamiet Bluiett, stared and listened to those pearls, added the excellence of his baritone sax and contrabass clarinet, and melded them together. The result is a vital, exuberant, free, swinging posthumous release entitled DANCE OF THE NIGHT CREATURES. Released on Mapleshade in 1999, Bluiett’s inspired trombone project for his Exploration Series began nearly 30 years ago when he and Thurman Green played in a Navy band. The recording features 9 tracks played by Thurman Green with the John Hicks Trio on five viable Green originals “Minor Blue,” "Dance of the Night Creatures," “Lately,” “Searching for Peace,” and “Cross Currents.” The set showcases the talents of Hamiet Bluiett on baritone sax/contrabass clarinet, Walter Booker on bass and Steve Williams on drums. Bassist Steve Novosel adds a new dimension to the late Horace Tapscott tone poem, “Daughter of Cochise,” and on the Green original “Cross Currents.” Even though this release is Green’s last and finest date, we reserve judgment because there’s a lot more to hear from his treasure of unreleased compositions. The appeal of Green can’t be manufactured, he was the real thing.