In his youthful years during the 1940s Sir Charles Thompson was fortunate enough to be situated at ground zero for the collision between swing and bebop. High profile sessions with Charlie Parker, Illinois Jacquet, Coleman Hawkins and others ensued as well as stints with Lester Young, Roy Eldridge and Don Byas. How’s that for a resume? All this fertile activity put Thompson on the map and cemented his place in jazz history. Five decades later comes this date instigated by Delmark’s Bob Koester at Chicago’s upscale Jazz Showcase Club. While advanced in years, it’s evident from the opening bars of the title track that Sir Charles chops have hardly diminished and he wastes no time in soloing at length.
The next five tracks center attention on the core rhythm trio and feature beautifully cogent statements from all three men. Beginning with “Easy Living” the combo expands to quartet dimensions with the addition of Schneider. Hoyle joins the group on “Blue and Sentimental” and in the process continues his streak of sitting in on a single number for Delmark projects (see Harold Ousley’s Grit-Gittin’ Feelin’ for another enjoyable example). All of the fare is fairly straight forward stuff but Thompson’s agile and gentle touch keeps it from ever sounding maudlin. Tunes like “You Don’t Know What Love Is” balance simple delivery with an undeniable emotiveness that is both refreshing and beguiling. Thompson is part of an ever-narrowing fraternity of musicians, survivors of the Bebop Age who are still plying their trade and sounding as spry as ever. In hearing his richly rendered melodies Jackie McLean’s emphatic advice instantly springs to mind, “Give them their flowers while they’re still with us.” Here’s hoping this recording allows listeners the world over the opportunity and impetus to do just that.
Sir Charles Thompson- piano; Ed de Haas- bass; Charles Braughm- drums; Eric Schneider- tenor & alto saxophones, clarinet; Art Hoyle- trumpet. Recorded: August 3 & 4, 2000, Chicago, IL.
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