It's nice to see an old friend coming home to jazz. After building herself a considerable reputation as a jump-swing, pianist/vocalist Jo Thompson has returned after a 30 year hiatus during which she raised a family. She has lost none of the pizzazz which characterized her performances when she was one of the few jazz singers leading the Noble Sissel big band in the 1950's. This album fills a major gap in her performing history. Up to now, she never recorded on her own. But she more than makes up for this on her debut recording. Joined by some of the top jazz sidemen and ensemble players, Thompson runs through a play list liberally peppered with an intelligent, entertaining mix of jazz, pop and swing, mostly delivered with a fast pitched style guaranteed to keep toes tapping and hips shaking. On "If I Could Be With You", she joins with a member of the trumpet section for a give and take delivery of this 1926 tune. She then turns on the bar room piano for the Johnny Ray special "Walkin' My Baby Back Home" and Nellie Lutcher's "Fine Brown Frame" with a touch of the Mae West "come up and see me sometime big boy" attitude.
Thomas Wolfe once wrote "You Can't Go Home Again". Jo Thompson has just issued a CD which says "that just ain't so baby."
Track Listing: Slender, Tender and Tall; Walking My Baby; Fine Brown Frame; Peel Me a
grape; If I Could Be with You; I Love to Love; Shine Stockings; Just
Squeeze Me; Up a Lazy River; Pennies from Heaven; Million Dollar Secret
Personnel: Jo Thompson - Piano/Vocals; Ed Pizant - Alto Sax; Lance Bryant, Benny
Russell - Tenor sax; Pablo Calogero - Baritone Sax; Roger Ingram, Steve
Wiseman, Jon Erik Kellso - Trumpet; Charles Stephens, Tom Sullivan -
Trombone; Chris Olness - Bass Trombone; Darryl Hall -Bass; Jon Knust -
Drums; Jimmy Stewart - Guitar
I love jazz because...it's in my blood! My late father, Billy Ainsworth, was a musical prodigy who dropped out of school at 17 after he stunned the seasoned musicians of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with an in-off-the-street audition
I love jazz because...it's in my blood! My late father, Billy Ainsworth, was a musical prodigy who dropped out of school at 17 after he stunned the seasoned musicians of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with an in-off-the-street audition. He was on the band bus the next day as Dorsey's alto sax and clarinet player, and never looked back. He played with great bandleaders such as Freddie Martin, Tex Beneke and Ray McKinley, some before he was out of his teens (they had to lie about his age to get him into nightclubs). Many older musicians have told me he was the greatest alto sax player they ever worked with. He was equally great on clarinet and was clarinetist and harmony singer for cocktail jazz pioneers, the Ernie Felice Quartet.
He eventually left the road and settled down, and that's when I came in. By that time, he was, by day, vocal group session leader/player/arranger for classic jingles and commercial music produced in Dallas. At night, he played in society bands, jazz combos and elegant showrooms. Tuesdays were slow in the showrooms, so band members' families got in free, and my mom took me to see him backing such legends as Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Steve and Eydie, and a very old Ella Fitzgerald. Between that, hearing his record collection, growing up around the legendary musicians and singers who were like aunts and uncles to me, and just listening to him practice around the house, filling the neighborhood with incredible jazz sax riffs, I couldn't help becoming that weird kid who was listening to Peggy Lee, Ella and Manhattan Transfer when my classmates were listening to rock, country and soul.
Even though he died before I ever sang professionally, he remains my inspiration and all my CDs are dedicated to him. I like to think that he'd like my music, since it's built on the foundation he handed down to me.