From a review of show at Caton Castle on 6/23/2012 "... from the start of this concert, I knew this was going to be a ‘bluesy’ kinda night and it was. The quartet, lead by Darius, an excellent pianist and composer, showcased how easily this rhythm section interpreted the minds and thoughts of some of history’s greatest creative minds. From the ‘Blues March’, ‘Star Eyes’ to ‘Dianthus’ this group’s blues thing was front and center. Lockhard’s mellow solos confirmed this genus with his interpretations of ‘Autumn Leaves’ and ‘Lush Life.’ Herman, of course, knows how to make the bass sing as well as Killgo on drums. You just can’t go wrong when the rhythm section is as tight as this one was. Excellent Show!!!! -Leslie Imes
From a post after a performance at Caton Castle with the Major Boyd Quartet, 7/25/2009:
"Hello Caton Castle Family,
[...Well before I eat another nectarine this summer (I haven't gotten a good watermelon yet this year) last week, to a great audience, we had Major Boyd, Darius Scott, Mitchell Coates and Jesse Moody. This was a first appearance for Darius but I'm sure not his last one. After the group warmed up the stage a bit, Darius led the rhythm section on 'Someday My Prince Will Come'. He played a gentle interpretation of this ballad with a flaming conclusion. The folks I was sitting with said 'that he had magic in his fingers' and an excellent compliment to each of the other solos - that was just the beginning. By the time the blues came along Darius' fingers really went for it.
Into the second set, the group was joined by veteran sax man Vernon Wolst and he and Major combined to do a 'Jelly Roll' kinda thing with Darius kicking the can on down the road. But Moody really showed off all night long pushing the ensemble in a way that he usually doesn't do - boy was he on their heels Saturday night!...]
email@example.com Michael Thomas Quintet Friday, September 9, Dazzle Restaurant and Lounge, 303-839-5100. By Shawn Bauer Article Published Sep 8, 2005
Washington, D.C.-based trumpeter Michael Thomas brings his smoking-hot quintet to town for a night of blistering hard bop meets Philly swing. After graduating from Grambling University, Thomas performed with Frank Foster, who was directing the famous Count Basie Orchestra at the time. He sharpened his chops and technique playing with the likes of Jimmy Heath, Buck Hill, Betty Carter and Webster Young. Gaining confidence and experience, his Quintet -- Thomas, pianist Darius Scott, saxophonist Zach Graddy, contrabassist Kent Miller and drummer Frank Williams -- built its powerhouse sound through extensive gigging in New York's brutally critical club and jam-session scene. The group's interplay is tighter than a clenched fist, and its sense of unspoken direction is remarkable. Thomas's Hubbard-like lyricism and precision solos are pure vintage fury mixed with hip, controlled, contemporary sensibilities. Those who gravitate toward that old Blue Note sound should check out his first album, The Messenger, which is a tribute of sorts to Art Blakey.
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Previous Articles by Shawn Bauer Kneebody 4 of US Soulive Pick of the Week
January 31, 2005
Quintet takes audience back in jazz time
By Johnathan Rogers For The Charleston Gazette
I have long believed that time travel is impossible. This past Friday night, however, the Michael Thomas Quintet planted the first seeds of doubt.
In the third installment of the 2004-2005 Charleston Jazz Series, I and several others in the audience had the distinct sensation of being in Manhattan in the 1940s and 1950s on the famous jazz stretch of West 52nd Street.
This was where, night in and night out, artists such as Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus and countless others pushed and pulled themselves and the audience to new artistic heights. 52nd Street, along with Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem, was the cauldron on the wizard’s workshop, where sweat, booze and cigarette smoke provided the background for high art.
Subtract the cigarette smoke, decrease the booze, replace the tiny bars with the elegant confines of Wellington’s, then add the Thomas Quintet’s sweat, hunger and skill, and you are transported back in time to West 52nd Street.
“We were marinated in jazz,” said good friend and jazz aficionado Gary Borstein. “They were as clean and sharp as their music.”
“It was so nice to see men in suits,” said the always dapper Howard Kenney. “Especially when they can play.”
With nicknames like “the Deacon” and “Sparkplug,” there was little doubt about the group’s ability to play. Yet individual excellence does not an excellent group make.
Fortunately, after seven years together, the Thomas Quintet played with the confidence and fluidity that comes when individual mastery unites with group cohesion. The group displayed the same prowess whether the song was a ballad, straight-ahead bebop or honky-tonk blues.
And it is this, perhaps more than anything, that makes jazz such a uniquely American art.
In jazz, a person’s individual creativity is never sacrificed for the sake of the group. In fact, if the group is to flourish, the individual must contribute more to the group.
When this happens, even the supposedly impossible becomes possible.
"The Messenger" Cadence Magazine - April 2001 (pages 112-113) by Greg Buium
As the rhythm and horns come crashing down, the first moments of "The Messenger" proclaim something special - an urgency, an unadorned elbow. Like Winard Harper, Michael Thomas speaks to the Blakey tradition and the CD's title itself is a message: the pieces (largely originals) and the pulses will remind you of the Jazz Messengers.
Recorded at Michael Thomas' home studio, this is his debut recording. And he's a dynamic force, rolling along, bopping and weaving. He can be aggressive ("Tense Moments"), rollicking("Rue de la Harpe"), soulful("Mike's Blues") - you name it.
As like a good Jazz Messenger, he rarely eases up. Nearly forty minutes in, on "Soul Eyes", he pulls out the flugelhorn and things drop down. Though he doesn't seem as comfortable now; there's an emotional disconnect between Thomas's ideas and Mal Waldron's composition. There isn't an uptempo issue, however, and as if to reinforce this there's a quick fade into "The Warm Up(interlude)," an unabashed swinger, before "Mike's Blues," a medium walk - soul music Jazz Messenger-style.
The quintet is a solid unit. Tenor saxophonist Zack Graddy makes a real impression: his delicious tone - deep and rough - paired with a frisky ear makes for a smart combination. The notes may gush out in clumps - a honk, a trill - or slowly in lines, but he's continually reinventing himself within a solo.
Alto saxophonist Antonio Parker makes two swinging guest appearances, though I would have liked to hear him straight up against Graddy. While their mandates are similar, they're coming from different strains within a common tradition.
Drummer Frank Williams provides a constant cascade, piling rhythm upon rhythm. And pianist Darius Scott knows what each piece needs. On "Tense Moments", for instance, he draws lines out of McCoy Tyner's bag, but for the most part he's playing on his own terms. The rhythm section's vigorous, intelligent support is especially noticeable on "The Messenger," where Scott and Williams lock into a compelling conversation behind the soloists. Bassist Kent Miller, firm and full throughout, walks along.
"The Messenger" Open Sky (www.jazzcorner.com) - November 2000 by Willard Jenkins
For DC-based trumpeter Michael Thomas this initial release is the result of a true labor of love. Not one to wait for a record label to come knocking at his door, Thomas seized the initiative himself, not only starting his own label and releasing his own debut disc, but also developing his own home studio to lay down these 10 persuasive tracks. Thomas has a brass proud trumpeter's arrogance in sound but not demeanor. The title is an apt one as the feeling harkens back to Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers without in any way being imitative. And Mr. Do Everything Michael Thomas also wrote all but three of these tunes, mining the books of Sahib Shihab, Tina Brooks, and Mal Waldron for the other three. From Waldron's book he beautifully essays the ever-lovely "Soul Eyes" as a quartet feature for his flugelhorn.
Elsewhere the chores are shared roundly by Thomas' mates the edgy tenor saxman Zack Graddy, bassist Kent Miller, drummer Frank Williams lV, pianist Darius Scott, and he broadens the band on two tracks with the energetic altoist Antonio Parker. Highly recommended stuff. Contact: www.jazhead.com
Jazz at a Glance Volume 123 Al Maniscalco Live at Tidings Park
Record Label: Jalkoda Records
Style: Straight-Ahead / Classic
Musicians: Al Maniscalco (saxophones), Darius Scott (piano), Eric Kennedy (drums), Jeff Reed (bass)
Review: LIVE AT TIDINGS PARK captures saxophonist Al Maniscalco and his band on a midsummer evening's concert. It's not hard to conjure a convivial atmosphere of a lush, humid park filled with grown-ups stretching out on lawn, children laughing on swings, dogs leaping at thrown Frisbees, and the band striking out tunes as the brilliant colors of the late afternoon fade to black.
The taping of the concert was never intended to be an album. Maniscalco recorded the performance on his mini-disc recorder to be played and erased after his review of the concert. What Maniscalco caught was a performance in which the band was tight and the improvisation wicked. And reflected the setting and the mood of a carefree evening in the park.
The rough recording was re-mixed and mastered to bring out the best possible sound qualities. There are moments of electrical interference that remain. Rather than distract, these actually enhance the feeling of attending a live, outdoor concert.
"If This Isn't Love" starts the set with a blazing extended solo by Maniscalco that recalls at different times Coltrane and Rollins. Maniscalco simply takes off with band in tow and later is spelled by a very delicate piano interlude by Darius Scott. Drummer Eric Kennedy then breaks up the bucolic sensibility with a brilliant dissonant conclusion. Maniscalco recalls the glowing sexiness of Dexter Gordon in the beautiful rendition of 'What A Difference A Day Makes.' Framed by the sounds of kids playing nearby, 'Alicia' is a bittersweet ballad dripping with heartfelt pangs of departed love. While 'Alicia' is stirring up some old ghosts, 'Inspiration' may be the best of the set. It's a simple melody that lends itself to impressive improvisation and captures the sublime mood of a summer's twilight.
While this quartet is not well known outside of the Baltimore area, it is worth remembering the name should Al Maniscalco and his band come to play in your neighborhood park.
Reviewed by: John Doll
****************************************************************************************** Todd Butler Group Lockout
It's not easy to revive the spirits of Davis and Coltrane, but the Todd Butler Group comes about as close as you can get. The ultra-cool sounds of Todd Butler's trumpet and Kyle Coughlin's saxophone bring to mind the glory days of the masters of be-bop jazz.
Butler is at his best on the anxious downtown sounds of the title track and the quick stepping Del Sasser. He and Coughlin make a great team on the echoing phrases of Nat's Groove, playing off of each other effortlessly. They also take a high class strut on The Meltdown, and then cruise into the stop-and-start grooves of Rosie's Place.
This is one of the best jazz albums I've heard in a long while. Butler and his group do a great job of getting to the heart of bop, breathing new life into it without simply recycling, even throwing in a few originals that could be classics in their own right. Well done.
MISH MASH Mandate: Rebirth of Cool.
************************************************************************************ Todd Butler Group / Lockout / TBG (CD)
Sample 30 seconds of "Lockout"
John Barth, a good musician himself, once advised writers to steer clear of epitaphs, since they make your reader know what he could be reading instead. The same probably applies to music. Here, besides a handful of originals, Baltimore's Todd Butler Group perform pieces by such notables as Wayne Shorter ("Witch Hunt") and Joe Henderson ("Serenity"), along with the brilliant work of somewhat lesser known artists like Benny Golson (whose "I Remember Clifford", a tribute to bop trumpeter Clifford Brown, becomes the centerpiece here). The band's versions of these classics are all beautifully done -- sometimes with more energy than the originals themselves -- but still, anyone with a light wallet must ask this question: why put your money down on the Todd Butler Group? The answer lies in compositions like Butler's own "Lockout", Kyle Coughlin's "Like Vertigo" or Darius Scott's "The Meltdown". All of these stand head to toe with their formidable covers, and the playing is so boisterous that it delights the part of you that wants traditional jazz to carry all the spirit from the streets of New Orleans. Running 69 minutes, the results might be too much of a good thing, but the Todd Butler Group should find avid supporters among those who like their jazz midway between Steve Coleman and Maceo Parker. Their brand of jazz is not too adventurous, but the pieces are complex enough that they don't yearn for vocals, or possess the slightest air of disposability. -- td
********************************************************************************************* "If you're into good music, especially jazz, you just have to hear this record!" Susie Mudd - Music Monthly Magazine
Lockout is the most recent release from The Todd Butler Group. It is wonderful. The first cut, which is the title track, got me. Immediately. If you like the stuff Carl Filipiak puts out, which I love, you'll like this stuff, too. He writes some great music, and his chops are fine. Those appearing on the record, too, are excellent.
Listen for Kyle Coughlin (saxophone), Mike Kuhl (drums), Jeff Reed (bass), Darius Scott (piano), and Jeff Chiaverini (trombone). There's so much to get off on ... these guys have great chops, and they connect. You can feel it in the music. I literally adored the disc. God, what an effort. If you're into good music, especially jazz, you just have to hear this record!
Reprinted from Music Monthly - Sept. 2000
******************************************************************************************88 Jazz at a Glance Volume 106 Featured Artist: The Todd Butler Group CD Title: Lockout Style: BeBop / Hard Bop
Review: Quality jazz is found just about everywhere. It is not the exclusive province of nationally known artists in a few big cities. Musicians wind up in a particular location for many reasons. They may be returning home from the road. Perhaps they never left. There may be opportunities to play, teach or learn. Maybe even a day job. Whatever the reasons they find one another. The result may be a powerhouse big band or in this case a tightly knit small group, providing a creative outlet for writers and players as well as enjoyment for their local audience.
The Todd Butler Group is based in the Baltimore/Washington area. Butler, who is a "first call" trumpet and flugelhorn player and clinician, arrived there to attend college. The other hornman is Kyle Coughlin on tenor and alto. Coughlin has played jazz in the area for ten years and is an educator and recitalist. The formidable rhythm section include two music majors and a " relative newcomer to jazz". The "newcomer" is pianist Darius Scott who doesn't sound like one.
This is an high-energy hard bop band with a full ensemble sound built around Butler's fiery trumpet and Coughlin's versatility on reeds. They are at home with the classics-Wayne Shorter's "Witch Hunt", Joe Henderson's "Serenity" and Lee Morgan's "Twice Around." Butler, Coughlin and pianist Scott also contribute originals which fit right in with that repertoire. For me, the highlights were a Butler original, "Nat's Groove," which does full justice to the title, and "Del Sasser," associated with Cannonball and composed by his bassist, the late Sam Jones. The band's poignant treatment of "I Remember Clifford," with trombonist Jeff Chiaverini added to the mix, illustrates the group's ability on ballads.
" Superstar players don't automatically make the tightest group. I am more concerned about having players who can cut the gig and sound good together," said Butler to Music Monthly in 1998. On this debut album he sure got the right players and that good sound.