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David Bennett Thomas: Deeper Journey

Dan McClenaghan By

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Pianist David Bennett Thomas takes inspiration from God's word. Not unlike Finish pianist/harpist Iro Haarla, on her beautiful duet set Kirkastus (TUM Records, 2015), with saxophonist Juhani Aaltonen, where Biblical Psalms informed the music, Thomas' Deeper Journey goes to the Bible for inspiration on half the tunes on this meticulously crafted, subtle—yet modern and adventurous—set of songs.

On his previous recording, Headspace (Vectordisc, 2013), Thomas assembled a stellar ensemble, with drummer Erik Johnson and bassist Micah Jones, along with saxophonist Joel Frahm. He's carried that crew over, along with the wild card on that disc, who shines also on Deeper Journey: John Swana and his contribution on EVI (electronic valve instrument), a new age instrument that injects a forward-leaning sound into an often chamber like atmosphere. It's a sound that—in spite of it's plugged-in aspect—adds a modern, off-kilter warmth to the proceedings.

The Bossa Nova-ish "Coasting Home" glides. Frahm's rough-hewn sax solo brings some grit to the smooth flow. Swana's EVI solo brims with a pinpoint electro-beauty. "Come To The Waters" glows with serenity. Robert Frazier guests on French horn; Jeffrey Solow sits in on cello. Thomas lays down a lovely, delicate-of-touch piano solo, and in the background, guitarist Vic Juris adds understated vamp, before he gets his turn with a warm acoustic statement.

Thomas doesn't limit himself jazz. He also composes orchestral, choral and chamber works, and that aspect of his work seeps inevitably into his jazz offerings—the polish and the exactitude. "First Frost" has a orchestral feel—with, again French horn and cello included in the mix. The highlight, "Abraham and Isaac," includes French horn and trombone (Jarred Antonacci), producing a sound that can be compared to that of composer/arranger Gil Evans, or perhaps Herbie Hancock's overlooked Speak Like A Child (Blue Note Records, 1968) set.

The disc's title tune rides a swirl of spiritual mystery, with Frahm's tenor and Swana's EVI circling each other in the updraft of the beautifully-crafted arrangement, on a set that represents a forward leap for David Bennett Thomas.

Track Listing: Coasting Home; Come To The Waters; Wandering Song; First Frost; All The Days; Abraham and Isaac; Hope; Elevator Etiquette; One Horse Town; Deeper Journey; How Lonely Sits The City.

Personnel: David Bennett Thomas: piano; Joel Frahm: soprano and tenor saxophones (1, 3, 6, 8, 10, 11); John Swana: EVI (!, 3, 8, 10); Vic Juris: guitar; Micah Jones: bass; Erik Johnson: drums; Robert Frazier: French horn (2, 4, 6); Jeffrey Soloqw: cello (2, 4); Jarred Antonacci: trombone (6).

Title: Deeper Journey | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Vectordisc Records

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