Jay Thomas is a fine multi-instrumentalist, equally at home with flute, soprano sax, flugelhorn and trumpet. And the playing of any one of these instruments in no way compromises his playing on any of the others. Like Benny Carter, he is one of very few jazz musicians who are adept on instruments with very different mouthpieces and therefore requiring very different embouchures.
Song for Rita is Thomas' 5th album as a leader and presents a variety of Latin sounds and rhythms. For a real treat, the play list has three relatively obscure tunes by Antonio Carlos Jobim. The whole affair is enhanced and enlivened considerably by the participation of Thomas' attractive wife, Becca Duran, both as a vocalist and as a composer of two of the more beguiling tunes on the agenda, "Song for Rita" and "Au Contraire". The former immediately brings to the ear aural images of Getz and his bossa nova collaborations with Astrud Gilberto. On the latter, Thomas' trumpet noodles delicately and unobtrusively under Duran's lilting vocal. An added fillip on this track is the good guitar by Chas Davidson. Although Thomas spends most of his time on the tenor sax, he takes out the hard to negotiate soprano for engaging rhapsodizing on "Vineet's Blues". His flute helps to impart the eerie environment and sounds of the jungle on "Amazonas". The mellow flugelhorn comes out on the samba, "Wu Wei". Thomas is careful when he plays this horn and the trumpet. Recognizing his limitations, he substitutes enchanting melody for high note pyrotechnics which is an effective and smart way for him to go. This tune also offers opportunities for some inventive percussion work by Mark Iverster. The one standard, "I'm Glad There Is You", is here as a reminder that the artistry of Thomas and Duran extend way beyond Brazilian as Duran puts a shiny, sensuous veneer on this classic torch song, aided and abetted by Norman Durkee's keyboards.
Thomas and Duran alternate between two sets of rhythm, guitar and keyboard, with Miguel Garrido's bass the only constant appearing on all tracks. The shift in personnel in no way detracts from the quality or vigor of the performances. This is another fine effort by this Seattle pair and is highly recommended. Visit Jay's Internet page at www.emeraldnet.net/~biggroove/files/jay/thomas.html.
Personnel: Jay Thomas - Trumpet/Flugelhorn/Tenor & Soprano Saxophone/Flute; Becca Duran - Vocals; Miguel Garrido - Bass; Luis Peralta*, Mark Iverster^ - Drums/Percussion; Rick Reed@, Chas (Vineet) Davidson^ - Guitar; Norman Durkee$, Joshua Wolff^ - Keyboard