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David Bennett Thomas: Jazz Portrait

Dan McClenaghan By

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One of America's top literary voices in crime fiction, T. Jefferson Parker says that after he finishes reading a good book he feels nourished. A sense of nourishment can also come from listening to a good piece of music, regardless of genre. Pianist David Bennett Thomas, who may be better known for his classical compositions—his Piano Works 2001-2009) (Self Produced, 2010) a superb example of that side—presents his tangent into jazz with Jazz Portrait, drawing inspiration from the world of literature on ten tunes inspired by lines from James Joyce's 1916 novel, Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man.

"Wave of Light" opens up with a piano glimmer beneath Ron Kerber's' luminous soprano saxophone. The feeling is pastoral, like something from the songbook of saxophonist Jan Garbarek. Guitarist Kevin Hanson glistens into the mix, leading to a burble of gentle percussion. Trumpeter John Swana sits in here and on four more of the set's tunes, playing the EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument)---a trumpeter player's synthesizer that can create a wide range of tones, sounding here like a slightly souped-up wind instrument; a plugged-in oboe, perhaps.

"Seaborne," is meticulously arranged, as is the entire set. The mood is gentle and drifting, and Bennett's comping behind Micah Jones' fluid bass solo is economical and understated, leading to his own intricately lovely solo, followed by Swana, his EVI adding a modern hue. With a fusion feeling and tight groove, "Nasty Roche" opens with a nasty guitar lick that gets grittier still in Hanson's solo, and Kerber blowing down and dirty on tenor sax, while "Dieu" has a solemn and deliberate mood, with piano, tenor sax and piano conversing in serious tones.

James Joyce represents serious literature. Using the author's classic novel as a jumping off point for a jazz recording, Thomas has come up with a superbly crafted, accessible and nourishing work of art.

Track Listing: Wave of Light; Seaborne; Nasty Roche; Fleece of Clouds; His Heart Danced; Distant Pools; The Color the Sea Was at Night; Dieu; Music Leaping; The Dying Day.

Personnel: John Swana: EVI (1, 2, 6, 7, 9); Ron Kerber: soprano and tenor saxophones; David Bennett Thomas: piano, percussion (4); Kevin Hanson: guitar; Micah Jones: bass; Erik Johnson: drums; Arturo Stable: percussion (1, 4, 7).

Title: Jazz Portrait | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Vectordisc Records

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