Alto-saxophonist Luther Thomas joined pianist Mikkel Mark for this concert at the Christiana Jazz Club in Copenhagen on December 1, 2007. The program of standards on the resultant Mikkel Mark Trio featuring Luther Thomas works well, profiling the free jazz approach of Thomas with the more structured improvisations of Mark.
Thomas and Mark are both protagonist and antagonist as they lay down an appealing sense of balance. The arrangements unfold to let Thomas swerve into unfettered highlands as Mark comps or, more interestingly, swings against the incendiary grain of Thomas.
Thomas pays homage to melody on all tracks. This is not a harbinger of what is to transpire however, as his warm intonation on "Straight No Chaser" breaks away and rides an impressive and adventurous road. He lets the swell in slowly, swing capturing the moment before the pith is changed with phrases that harden and then torque. Mark is a light, flexing accompanist before he gets to minister his own ideas. His pensive ruminations and underlying lissome pulse add well-crafted fluidity and spaciousness.
"Misty" is more temperate, with Thomas basking in the melody and adding eloquent changes. He interlocks the refrain with tight screeches in a logical and seamless flow. Mark shows great poise, giving the composition a fresh perspective through his vision and ability to transform ideas.
Even as the quartet finds its groove there is no denying that they can break out with a sense of fun as they do on the closer, "Tenor Madness." Exhorted by drummer Kresten Osgood and the tempo set by bassist Guffi Pallesen, they rollick on shifting tides, a happy ending to a fine performance.
Track Listing: Straight No Chaser; Groovin’ High; All Blues; Equinox; Misty; Tenor Madness.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.