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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 love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.