Subtle elegance and classic swing seem to have been locked away in the jazz witness protection program for some time. Could it be that there is really not much more you can do with the music itself or could it be modern musicians feel the music may have gone out of style on its own.
A good melody, lyrical direction and a tight band no matter what genre you call your own are the building blocks for any good music and that especially includes jazz and their plethora of sub genres rivaling only a bank where you can always find a Vice President of "something." There amazing gift Thompson Jr. brings to the band stand would be far reaching influenced from Scott Joplin to Claude Debussy with the end result a contemporary swing for the ages that sound and seems all most timeless in both an approach from a compositional aspect as well as performance.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that co-composer Calvin Thomas played an integral role in bringing the musical vision of Al Thompson Jr. to life. Moving from an out of this world tune such as "The Chase" to the cinematic quality of "Memories Of A Moonlit Night" it would not be too far our of bounds to say that Thompson Jr.'s compositional skills are every bit as formidable as those of his performance repertoire. "City Mainstream" has the sound of a classic tune that came from the small screen. Drake Smith Sr. does a remarkable job on piano and trombone on this tune. Drake Smith Sr. is also responsible for arranging 7 of the 9 tunes here where a collaborative effort is the rule not the exception. An incredible performance is turned in by 15 year old trombonist Drake Smith Jr. also proving the apple does not fall far from the family tree.
Al Thompson Jr. can do what most pianists/composers can only dream of, he can paint vivid imagery with his performance and transcend the norm and the expected into a harmonic journey where the imagination of the listener is the tour guide with the individual simply needing to listen to their inner voice to see where the music will take them. From funk, to straight ahead jazz standards and back Al Thompson Jr. puts the fun back in jazz. When the straight ahead community is up to their eye balls in those pursuing the academic side of jazz theory it is most refreshing to find a talent that follows the zen like less is more when it comes to both theory and composition. The diversity contained herein speaks for itself.
An incredibly entertaining set with 4 solid stars to take with it!
Tracks: The Chase; Memories of a Moonlit Night; City Mainstream; A Man In Love; From The Beginning; The Charge; High Speed The Ride; One Town One People; 8th Ave. Safari.
Personnel: Al Thompson Jr.: piano; Kris Jensen: saxophones; Eric Elias; guitar; David Childs: piano & synthesizers; Francis Ieraci: acoustic bass; Roger Post: drums; Calvin Thomas: keyboard; Chris Hebert: saxophones, arranger; Steve Clarke: bass. Drake Smith Jr.; trombone, piano; Mark Dennis: flugelhorn; Jon Sexton: tenor saxophone; Frank DeMayo: guitar; Sean Sheriden: guitar; Eric Massimino: bass; Scott Lebish: drums, tambourine; Addison Thompson: alto saxophone; Michael Harris: flute; Jamie Finegan: trumpet; Robin Simmons: bass; Doug Simmons: drums; Drake Smith: arranger.
Special Thanks to Jim at Jazz Promo Services.