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Vance Thompson: Among Friends

David A. Orthmann By

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While earning a Masters of Music degree and then teaching at DePaul University, trumpeter, composer, and arranger Lance Thompson played in rehearsal bands with some of Chicago’s finest young talent. Before moving back to his native Knoxville to teach at the University of Tennessee and reconnect with the local jazz scene, Thompson assembled some of his peers and recorded Among Friends, his first disc as a leader.

Although the music is generally within the wide parameters of hard bop, Thompson and company reveal the influence of the classic Coltrane quartet, and also venture into pure bebop and free jazz. His arrangement of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Woody ‘N’ You,” with its roller-coaster ride of changing tempos, jagged rhythms, and brash execution, perfectly captures the essence of the bop genre. Likewise for his solo which is played with a full, ripe tone, and skillfully integrates double-time passages without losing continuity.

Dana Hall, who currently fills the drum chair for the Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra, frequently plays with the high energy and thick textures of Elvin Jones, and readily shifts into a more conventional time keeping role. Pianist Dan Trudell often displays the influence of McCoy Tyner (especially on “Shade Street,” the opening cut); however, as his eerie, dissonant introduction to Thompson’s composition “Cataclysm” shows, he is rapidly developing his own approach.

Tenor saxophonists Scott Burns (who doubles on soprano) and Geof Bradfield, also bring strong, assertive voices into the conversation. Bradfield’s short turn on Duke Pearson’s “Ready Rudy,” is one of the disc’s highlights. With casual aplomb, he combines a woody sound with harmonic sophistication and rhythmic flexibility, making standard jazz practices sound new and fresh again.

Track List:Shade Street; Woody ‘N’ You; I Should Care; Ready Rudy; Song For My Mother; Dearest Emily; Among Friends; Cataclysm.


Personnel: Vance Thompson

Title: Among Friends | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Shade Street Music


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