Drummer and educator Rich Thompson's third release as a leader Less is More, on the Seattle based Origin records, is a suave mix of quintessential hard bop standards; show tunes and a couple of originals that is full of delightful group dynamics and individual virtuosity. Thompson leads his quartet with a relaxed confidence and impeccable dexterity all the while maintaining both a thematic unity and a uniform excellence throughout.
Opening with trumpeter Kenny Dorham's "Lotus Blossom" the record kicks in high gear with horn player Terell Stafford's burnished, rapid fire trumpet improvisation that blows over the percolating vamps of the rhythm trio. The momentum does not slack until the last notes of the final track; saxophonist Joe Henderson penned "Step Lightly." The latter features tenorist Doug Stone's gritty, wail blowing over keyboardist Gary Versace's thick, resonant Hammond B3 lines.
Stone matches his heady, vibrato filled, tone to Thompson's darkly hued, harmonically rich drums in the achingly beautiful duet take of the Rodgers and Hart "I Didn't Know What Time It Was." The classic song is peppered with Latin hints and cloaked in a captivating crepuscular ambiance.
Versace showcases his total mastery of the piano as well as the organ as he switches from one to the other with finesse and facility. On the title piece Versace's pianism manifests as cascading, intricately woven, spontaneous phrases that match the complexity of the main motif. Stafford's clear, mellow flugelhorn states the melody with reserved passion and a touch of melancholy. Bassist Jeff Campbell's lyrical and intelligent solo concludes this Thompson composition with elegance.
Meanwhile Campbell's own "Hoot Gibson" highlights Versace's skills on the Hammond B3 as he lays down a unique blend of psychedelic sounds and earthy grooves. Stafford's muted horn growls with soulful swagger as Campbell builds exuberant refrains that slide along greasy organ chords.
Thompson's engaging and enjoyable album is neither necessarily innovative nor groundbreaking. It does, however, have a certain intriguing quality because of the superlative artistry of the band members and their sophisticated approach to the material. The deceptive ease with which they interpret the music makes for a pleasurable listening experience.
Lotus Blossom; Hoot Gibson; I Didn't Know What Time It Was; Camping
Out; Less Is More; Invisible; It's So Easy To Remember; This Is For
Albert; I've Never Been In Love Before; Step Lightly.
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