Pianist Ron Thomas leads a quartet with a trumpeter (John Swana) out front on The House of Counted Days, and two things jump out: an obvious Miles Davis influence, and some striking originality.
The opener, "Fancy of Fate," pushes you off balance. An oddly percussive workout, jaunty, ebullient, crisp; and the frame of reference is anybody's guess. Bassist Tony Marino works that big fat rubber band thing (four of them) on uprightmuscular, with gorgeous sustaining powerwhile trumpeter Swana bites off sharp notes...
Swana's Miles-mute work is beautiful on this CD, but his open horn stuff sounds even better. He has a bright, bold, coppery tone.
Then leader Thomas goes percussive with his right hand, a repeated note (forty, fifty times?) behind Swana. He turns the piano into a drum of sorts; then the trumpeter blows into a repetition mode, making himself a rhythm instrument while the piano gets to tell its story.
The Miles Davis influence surfaces on "Lines Where Beauty Lingers." And like the title tune, the mood comes out of Davis's period of transitionthe very early sixties, between his two great quintets, after Kind of Blue and before Wayne Shorteran underappreciated time in his musical life. Thomas here is less percussive, more in a Bill Evans mode, while Swana is pensive and tender.
Then "Tough Nut" brings the second great quintet to mind, with its contained freneticism and smoldering propulsion.
The title track is indescribably beautiful: organic, fluid, ethereal, space used to perfection. A floating on a cloud dream. Worth the price of admission itself.
The House of Counted Days is an extraordinary CD. If Ron Thomas had a higher profile, it would win yearly top ten honors. It'll be there anyway for those of us who've had the privilege of experiencing it.