By the time this album came out on the budget Design label in 1959, bandleader, pianist arranger and composer Claude Thornhill (1909-1965) had largely been forgotten.
After making a name for himself with arrangements for the orchestras of Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman and Ray Noble, Thornhill put together his own band in 1940. Although it was basically a dance band, the orchestra began attracting the attention of the jazz world after the addition of arranger Gil Evans in 1941.
A progressive post-war band put together by Thornhill retained the services of Evans and utilized soloists such as alto saxophonist Lee Konitz and trumpeter Red Rodney. This band's sound and arrangements influenced the development of the cool jazz that emerged in the late 1940s, in particular the 1949 sessions of the Miles Davis Nonet that produced the legendary Birth of the Cool recordings.
Thornhill's discography is extensive and it's difficult to figure out just where Play for Dancing fits in. As was the norm for budget recordings, the album notes give no indication when or where this was recorded. It also doesn't indicate any of the musicians involved, outside of Thornhill of course.
The sound of the recording indicates it was probably recorded in the 1950s, perhaps even especially for Design, although their products were often resissues of much earlier recordings. From the original vinyl album comes Where or When. Listen and/or download below.
Where or When
This album isn't available in a digital format, but used vinyl copies turn up now and then on auction sites. The prices will probably deter all but the most diehard Thornhill fans.
As a composer, Thornhill's most famous song is Snowfall, which has been recorded by dozens of artists and has become a standard since its introduction by the Thornhill band in 1941.