445

Ron Thomas/John Swana/Joe Mullen: Cycles

Dan McClenaghan By

Sign in to view read count
Many jazz pianists have a grounding in the classical side of music. Ron Thomas's anchoring may be deeper there than most. His back-to-back piano trio outings, Doloroso (Art of Life Records, 2006) and Music in Three Parts (Art of Life Records, 2006), explored some very alluring, loose sound shapes shaded by his classical side in a quite accessible way—gorgeous recordings, both.

A trip to the pianist/composer's website and an exploration of his eloquent and extensive ramblings is quite a strange trip. Thomas reveals that when he saw the romantic comedy The Seven Year Itch in 1957, he was "mysteriously prompted" by the soundtrack's inclusion of Rachmananoff's "Second Piano Concerto" to become a musician. This was a movie that starred Marilyn Monroe. I remember the movie well; but Rachmananoff—sadly, in retrospect—didn't make an impression on me; which may explain, in part, why Ron Thomas is making great sounds and most of the rest of us aren't.

With Cycles, though, a first impression was: "What the hell is this?" After experiencing the organic beauty of the two 2006 piano trio sets, Thomas makes a departure, with his keyboard synthesizer in place of the piano, teaming with trumpeter John Swana, who plays an electric valve instrument here, and Joe Mullins on percussion.

This is strange stuff: electric washes and trilling neon noises, cries that sound like whale songs mixed with soundscapes and indecipherable messages from outer space. Atmospheric to the max, this feels like a science fiction movie soundtrack a good deal of the time; speaking of which, one of his compositions here is "Electric Sheep (Dream of the Android)," borrowed from the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep that became the movie Blade Runner.

Mullin's drumming keeps thing from soaring out of the galaxy, nailing down the glowing and diaphanous electricity. Or at least trying to. Without him this might have been an unlistenable experience; with him things get tied—albeit loosely—together. With him, amorphous atmospheres gain shape and become weirdly compelling.


Track Listing: CD1: Cavatina; Temple of Artemis; Is It Ulysses?; Ancient Boundaries; Electric Sheep (Dream of the Android); Desert Music for the Inner Ear. CD2: Hannibal; Miles Beyond; Hour of the Wolf; Damascus; Apollo's Taxi.

Personnel: Ron Thomas: keyboard synthesizer; John Swana: electric valve instrument; Joe Mullin: percussion.

Title: Cycles | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Vector Disc


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read For the Love of You CD/LP/Track Review For the Love of You
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Recent Developments CD/LP/Track Review Recent Developments
by John Sharpe
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Triple Double CD/LP/Track Review Triple Double
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Agrima CD/LP/Track Review Agrima
by Jerome Wilson
Published: October 21, 2017
Read The Study of Touch CD/LP/Track Review The Study of Touch
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 20, 2017
Read Another North CD/LP/Track Review Another North
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 19, 2017
Read "The Wandering Woods" CD/LP/Track Review The Wandering Woods
by Jim Olin
Published: October 9, 2017
Read "Anti-Hero" CD/LP/Track Review Anti-Hero
by Mike Jacobs
Published: September 1, 2017
Read "Argonautica" CD/LP/Track Review Argonautica
by Troy Collins
Published: November 14, 2016
Read "So Nice!" CD/LP/Track Review So Nice!
by Jeff Winbush
Published: August 30, 2017
Read "Back Before Bach: Musical Journeys" CD/LP/Track Review Back Before Bach: Musical Journeys
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: August 31, 2017
Read "Horizonte" CD/LP/Track Review Horizonte
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 31, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.