Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Rich Thompson Trio: Generations

Origin Arts
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Generations

As this album’s title suggests, trios have been a mainstay in jazz for, well,  generations. It’s a lot easier to gather simpatico musicians into a trio, than into a larger group. It’s an affordable combo; small clubs can’t foot the bill for larger groups. It also isn’t necessary to write the special arrangements required by bigger bands. 

Rich Thompson’s trio is one of the newest.

Thompson’s career began in 1980, during the period when many original big band icons had retired, or passed away, even though their bands still toured under different leaders. (Examples include Count Basie and Glenn Miller.) Thompson was a drummer with both of those units; he also played with Clark Terry and Dizzy Gillespie. Additionally, Thompson has played in the rhythm sections of numerous symphony orchestras across the country; he’s a professor at the Eastman School of Music, and is the author of several Drum Set educational volumes and videos.

Pianist Chris Ziemba, also associated with the Eastman School, is relatively unknown outside of the educational field, despite his considerable exposure within that circle. Bassist Miles Brown, another Eastman associate, is — like Thompson — conversant in both the jazz and classical genres. 

On one track (“I’m in Love with the Girl Next Door”), Thompson added Doug Stone on tenor sax; he has played with numerous names, including an extended tour with Maynard Ferguson’s Big Bop Nouveau.

This album is a mix of originals from Thompson and Brown, along with some great old jazz standards (“I Hear a Rhapsody,” “Keep Me in Mind” and “I Thought About You”). The trio’s version of that latter Jimmy Van Heusen tune is superb; you won’t be able to keep your fingers or feet still.

Thompson, Brown and Ziemba make an excellent rhythm section, and the primary factor is Thompson’s drum work. He’s more tasteful than most who play drums, and he really grooves; that inspires the bass and piano. 

These guys have a real future as a unit, if they decide to go for it.

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