Claude Thornhill: Snowfall




Claude Thornhill and His Orchestra


Snowfall, Vol. 1 (Hep)

Buy Track


Claude Thornhill (piano), Conrad Gozzo (trumpet),

Rusty Dedrick (trumpet), Bob Sprentall (trumpet), Tasso Harris (trombone), Bob Jenney (trombone), Irving Fazola (reeds), Dale Brown (reeds), George Paulson (reeds), John Nelson (reeds), Hammond Russum (reeds), Ted Goddard (reeds), Allen Hanlon (guitar), Harvey Sell (bass)


Composed by Ruth Thornhill and Claude Thornhill


Recorded: New York, May 21, 1941


Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

In the early 1940s, the opposite of "hot jazz" wasn't "cool jazz." The term "cool jazz" didn't exist at the time. A jazz fan at the time would have told you that the sweet bands were the antithesis of the hot swing orchestras. These sweet ensembles specialized in the tepid and sentimental, and didn't put much faith in cookin' tenor solos and smokin' chase choruses.

But how do we fit Claude Thornhill into this binary opposition? Jazz didn't get any more ethereal or mood-oriented than "Snowfall," his signature song. This is closer to Debussy than to Duke Ellington, and yet there is a ineffable quality at the heart of this music that resists assimilation into the sweet Guy Lombardo-ish camp. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that this music anticipates the 'cool jazz' revolution of the 1950s, and it comes to no surprise that many of the artists associated with that movement either worked with or were influenced by Thornhill. These linkages would become even more apparent when the Thornhill band reformed after World War II. Gil Evans, who would serve as Thornhill's arranger, summed up the ethos of this music best when he commented: "The sound hung like a cloud."

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

Tags: · ·

  • 1 Roger Strong // May 24, 2009 at 04:52 AM
    Wonderfully evocative track. I first noticed the music of Claude Thornhill when I first heard 'Portrait Of A Guinea Farm'. Snowfall has aged wonderfully well and I'm sure was hard to play well. Funny thing is that I can't think of any band that has ever tried to play it since then. Claude seesm to have been an interesting and complex character.