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Ron Thomas Trio: Doloroso

Dan McClenaghan By

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Ron Thomas took a few years off since his last CD release, the excellent House of Counted Days (2002). But just this year, the pianist, a commsumate musical artist, has offered up two stellar piano trio outings, Music in Three Parts and Doloroso.

Thomas employs similar limitations for both of these sets. In the case of Music in Three Parts, it's a boundary of three chordal rhythmic patterns; with Doloroso, he sets perhaps a looser stricture. The resulting sounds have an alluring beauty and surface simplicity, underlain by a remarkable richness and depth, something only a trio of well-schooled musicians, intensely commited to their art, can produce.

Thomas, born in 1942, has immersed himself in the worlds of jazz, classical and improvisation. The seven tunes on Doloroso are freely improvised inside the loose boundaries of pre-determined genre and context: Latin in three, jazz-like swing, meterless, etc. The resultant music has a free feeling that flows through a seat-of-the-pants rhythmic structure, a sound that is by turns intense or gentle, propulsive or ethereal, and unfailingly melodically approachable, as gorgeously riveting a listening experience as any you'll hear from any of the music makers you let into your listening life.

The opening title tune, "Doloroso" (Spanish for "painful"), looks inward, with a feeling of loss brought out by the telepathic trio interplay among Thomas, bassist Tony Marino and drummer Joe Mullen, while "Ars Poetica" drives forward insistently with an up-tempo momentum locked into a flexible, danceable groove. "Other Music," an introspective ballad, has a very classical feeling; and "No Straight Line" features an agitated and interestingly prickly bass/drum duo section.

This is top-level piano trio music. The Ron Thomas Trio is right there with the big names—Keith Jarrett, Brad Mehldau, Fred Hersch—making as vibrant, organic and modern-leaning music as you'll hear.

Visit Ron Thomas on the web.

Track Listing: Doloroso; Ars Poetica; Two Five One; Other Music; No Straight Lines; Here; De Profundia.

Personnel: Ron Thomas: piano; Tony Marino: bass; Joe Mullen: drums.

Title: Doloroso | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Art of Life Records

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