Monday, June 8, 2015

Vance Thompson's Five Plus Six: Such Sweet Thunder

Shade Street Music
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Such Sweet Thunder

Here’s another swinger from the American heartland. The locale is Knoxville, Tennessee: a part of the country not generally known for jazz. Trumpeter and arranger Vance Thompson initially formed a standard 18-piece unit — the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra — patterned after those of the big band era. He then stripped that down to a bebop quintet — the Marble City Five — consisting of trumpet, sax, piano, bass and drums. But he decided that something was missing, so he added half a dozen horns: hence Five Plus Six.

Thompson then expanded the reed section to include two more saxes (one a baritone), two more trumpets and a bass trombone. That’s the group featured on this debut release.

Most of the menu’s nine tunes are jazz standards: three by Thelonious Monk (“Pannonica,” “Four in One” and “Ugly Beauty”); three by Duke Ellington (“Such Sweet Thunder,” “Prelude to a Kiss” and “Rockin’ in Rhythm”); and Billy Strayhorn’s “Isfahan.” The two exceptions are a traditional Appalachian Folk song, “He’s Gone Away”; and the real surprise, Dolly Parton’s “Little Sparrow.”

Don’t laugh, it’s a gem!

The musicians are split age-wise; half are veterans, and half are Knoxville’s younger lions. They’re all excellent, and the band swings wonderfully. I have only one complaint: What took them so long to bring their talents to our attention?

May a lot more be forthcoming.

No comments: