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Album Review

Here we have some real buried treasure from an overlooked source, circa the mid-'70s. Although Patrick Williams was becoming a big name in televisionland at the time (his theme for the Mary Tyler Moore Show was one of the best-known tunes in America), and this invigorating album was lavishly honored by critics and NARAS, Threshold had the misfortune to be released on Capitol — then as now, without a clue as to what to do with jazz. The album vanished from the catalog, and only in 2008, prior to the release of a long-awaited sequel, Threshold Revisited, was it reissued in a 35th anniversary edition on CD. Why did we have to wait so long? One possible answer is that this contemporary big-band album is very much a product of its time, where the big-band idiom was infiltrated and rejuvenated for a short time by the electronics and rhythms of the rock and soul brigades that were ascendant in mainstream music then. Albums of a similar progressive, style-fusing bent by Don Ellis, Quincy Jones, and Gerry Mulligan (his wonderful The Age of Steam) have also been undervalued. Also, Williams makes no secret of his classical leanings here: the solo violin passages, string quartet writing, and echoes of Stravinsky that occur in "The Witch," or the reminiscence of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" in "And on the Sixth Day." Again, Ellis's own experiments with a string quartet within a big band come to mind. Other factors that put this recording beyond the usual categories is the refreshing (for a big band) palette of colors — French horns and tuba with no sax section — and the frequent changes in tempos and moods. The solo trumpets of Billy Childers and Marvin Stamm shine throughout the record; Tom Scott is the all-purpose flute and saxes man, doing a breathless Roland Kirk flute thing on "Mr. Smoke" — the album's best track. Mike Melvoin's electric piano underpins the multiplicity of textures, and Larry Bunker's congas drive the rhythm section. A host of first-call session players take care of the rest, and seem to be having a ball doing so. ~ Richard S. Ginell, Rovi


Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

A major arranger who has been active in the film industry for over three decades, Patrick Williams occasionally leads projects of his own. He started out studying classical trumpet and played in the Norwalk Symphony Orchestra. At the same time, in high school, Williams led his own swing-oriented jazz band. He studied at Duke University (where he led the Duke Ambassadors) and Columbia University. Williams was active in the studios from an early age, piling up many credits while in New York during...
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Threshold, Patrick Williams
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