John Vanore: Primary Colors

Dan McClenaghan By

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This beautiful duet set recorded by trumpeter John Vanore and pianist Ron Thomas serves as a showcase for auspicious beginnings, for both artists. The music for Primary Colors was recorded in 1984-85. Both of the players evolved into higher profiles, finding their individual places in jazz in the twenty-first century—Vanore with, mostly, his large ensemble writing, influenced by saxophonist/orchestrator Oliver Nelson on albums like Stolen Moments: Celebrating Oliver Nelson (Acoustical Concepts, 2017) and Contagious Words (Acoustical Concepts, 2011). For his part, the eclectic artistic output of Ron Thomas includes two of the finests piano trio albums of the twenty-first century: Music In Three Parts (2006) and Doloroso (2006), both on Art of Life Records, in addition to his innovative electric, synthesizer-based outings, Elysium (Vectordisc, 2009) and Cycles (Vectordisc, 2007).

First off, Primary Colors wasn't recorded with releasing an album in mind. This was two Philadelphia guys getting together for some experimentation with the music of that particular time, in what turned out to be an immersion in first take spontaneity polished up with overdubbed textures and electro-orchestrations. There is a richness to the sound all around—Vanore's resonant horn, Thomas on piano, Fender Rhodes, the Yamaha DX7 synth, crafting all manner of modernistic sounds.

"Final Dawn" opens the disc. It is perhaps the most intimate of the tunes, contemplative and relaxed, with added overdub spicings—cymbals and "chopsticks," understated organ-like trills. "Lady," from the pen of Lionel Richie—first recorded by Kenny Rogers in 1980—is the tour de force highlight of the set. A rich, majestic sound that brings Nils Petter Molvaer's music to mind. It is strikingly ahead of its time for something recorded in the mid-1980s.

Jerome Kern's "Yesterdays" changes the mood from an echoey, plugged-in expansiveness to an acoustic jauntiness, and Johnny Mandel's "A Time to Love" unfolds as a wistful reverie.

"Origins of Rude" is the set's second highlight, channeling a late-1970s, early-1980s Miles Davis—a full-on, in-your-face sound, full of sharp edges and a brash funk attitude, giving way to the glowingly ruminative Vanore-penned "Return," followed by the closer, the bright stoll of "Secret Love.

Not originally meant for release? Vanore found cassettes of these sessions when was reorganizing his basement. Turns out he found gold nuggets.

Track Listing

Final Dawn; Lady; Yesterdays; A Time For Love; Origins of Rude; Return; Secret Love.


John Vanore: trumpet; Ron Thomas: piano.

Album information

Title: Primary Colors | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: acoustical concepts


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