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Nicolas Thys: Virgo

Woodrow Wilkins By

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Layers, blends and individuality can make for a diverse music set. Bassist Nicolas Thys brings that with all-original songs on Virgo.

Thys is a native of Brussels, Belgium. His first instruments were piano and flute, but at the age of 13, he switched to electric bass. Over the years, he's earned several European jazz honors, and he's performed at some of the region's main events, including North Sea and Montreux. He has performed as a sideman for a variety of acts, among them Mark Turner, Dave Liebman, Zap Mama and Toots Thielemans. His ensemble for Virgo consists of tenor saxophonist Chris Cheek, pianist Jon Cowherd, guitar Ryan Scott and drummer Dan Rieser.

"Disco Monkey" begins with Cowherd setting a delightful, moderate pace, joined by Rieser on high-hats and Thys. Gradually, Cheek and Scott come in. Once the full band is engaged, it's like each member is in his own zone. For a brief melody, guitar and sax perform a duet. The song then reverts to the five-directional sound before returning to the melody again. Back and forth it goes until the middle passage, where Cowherd mixes his initial rhythm with a free-spirited solo, backed not-so-subtly by Rieser and Thys. Cheek solos as well.

"Lucky Loser" is an easygoing track. Rieser's crispness on the hi-hats helps underscore Cheek's lead. Cowherd steps in for an extended solo, ample assistance by guitar, bass and drums. Cheek plays mostly in the higher register, giving the tenor the feel of a modified alto. Thys' solo is backed very softly by piano and drums.

The title song is a slow, moody piece that represents Thys' star sign. As they do on several tracks, Cheek and Scott blend in the lead before splitting into a duet. Scott comes out a little more as the song progresses, eventually leading to a long, engaging solo. While Thys seems content to just go along for the ride, Cheek, Cowherd and Rieser are very active, particularly Rieser. Things soften considerably, with Cowherd and Cheek out front for the song's ending.

The six tracks of Virgo add up to nearly an hour of listening. At 7:54, "Disco Monkey" is the shortest track, which gives the musicians ample time to show off their solo skills as well as their interactivity. And they deliver throughout.

Track Listing: Disco Monkey; 99 Ocean; Lucky Loser; It

Personnel: Chris Cheek: tenor saxophone; Jon Cowherd: piano; Ryan Scott: guitar; Nicolas Thys: bass; Dan Rieser: drums.

Title: Virgo | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Pirouet Records

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