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Thanks to you all for the various answers - all very useful. Several further comments:

The music directory structure is largely as was imported, but is well organised e.g. everything under one parent "Music" but with folders per artist > album, plus some folders for "genre" for larger grouping. So yeah, ultimately one folder, but very well organised. Point being that thumbnails will appear through driving down into subdirs - levels as low as five or six folders down.

From other helpful comments (from the quodlibet dev) I think the thumbnail display issue is quite narrow and related to two things only: one is cache - when and how files are read as altered or not, and thus whether the system might update the cache to reflect that fact that, for example, I may have edited the music file. The other is to do entirely with .wma files. Seems that ASF is a Microsoft proprietary format, so while the system codecs (and by extension any suitable installed media player) will recognise and play .wma, I'm told that the specs are not open to be read by developers, thus there's what I might call the barest, minimum support for such flies. It is almost exclusively these file types I'm having thumbnail issues with. Lesson from this? Just ditch all the ghastly Microsoft/Windows related crap out of my Linux box, and stick to things like mp3 and flac, which while also being patent encumbered, are widely enough used and understood to present far less problems :0)

Don't think I want or need to go down the road of masking my music dir as a portable device, but thanks for the tip.