Al Thompson Jr’s compositions cover myriad of jazz styles, as evidenced by his wide variety of influences. Al cites such diverse musical personalities as Scott Joplin, Horace Silver, Miles Davis, and Claude Debussy as major influences in his playing and compositions. Al also spent some time studying with the great jazz composer/arranger Bill Finegan, who told Al, when looking over “City Mainstream,” to “go write twelve more like it.” Fortunately for us, Al took Bill’s advice to heart and thus represented here on this release are nine compositions along with contributions by his friend (his “Strayhorn”) co-composer Calvin Thomas. As the arranger on this project, it is a pleasure to work with an old friend, be free to arrange such wonderful and challenging music and to work with the many talented musicians represented here on this recording.
One need only listen to the “other-worldly” tune “The Chase” followed by the “film noir-esque” romantic “Memories Of A Moonlit Night” to marvel at and appreciate the diversity of Al’s musical mind. “City Mainstream” is timeless in its melody, almost “TV theme-like” and evokes images of driving on a bustling downtown street. Talent runs in the family as Al’s brother, Gary, contributed the lyrics to “A Man in Love.” “From The Beginning” is Al’s homage to Horace Silver, marking the recording debut of 15 year old trombonist, Drake Smith Jr., whose mature playing certainly belies his age. It should also be noted that the recording sessions were such fun that it just seemed natural to leave Kris Jensen’s contagious laugh at the end of the tune. “The Charge” is a composition whose construction began with the bass line. Saxophonist Kris Jensen soars on “High Speed the Ride,” while the rhythm section firmly anchors the alternating funk and straight ahead sections. The melody of “One Town One People” seems reminiscent of an old jazz standard of which one just can’t quite remember the name. Concluding this release is a wonderful live performance of “8th Avenue Safari,” painting a vivid musical picture of a Saturday walk in New York City. As different as these compositions may appear initially, astute listeners will be able to identify a similarity, a common thread among the nine pieces presented here. They represent the wonderfully unique musical voice of Al Thompson Jr.
- Drake Smith -