The octogenarian is in fine form leading the J.C. Heard Orchestra, under musical director Walt Szymanski, through 15 jazz and blues jewels.
The singer-pianist sets the tone for the album by leading off with a strong, high-energy version of “Bye Bye Blackbird” that will transport listeners back to the big band days. Thompson is the smart, sassy girl singer and more.
She offers thoroughly engaging performances of “Gee Baby Ain’t I Good To You,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” and “On the Sunnyside of the Street.” It’s material that perfectly suits the vocalist’s elegant touch and warm personality.
On “Hello Dolly,” Thompson shows her playful side by offering up her best Louis Armstrong impression.
While she shines on the uptempo numbers, she also shows she know her way around a ballad with “Embraceable You” and “Try A Little Tenderness,” which she slows down to give the song even more emotion.
Thompson began her career in the 1950s but then opted out of the business to raise three sons in Detroit, where her husband was an executive with the Chrysler Corp. She was coaxed out of a 30-year hiatus by the late Lionel Hampton, who called her “one of the last great pianist/singers.” She also counts Aretha Franklin as a fan.
There’s much made of Thompson performing at the age of 80, which is impressive. However, Forever Fabulous isn't just a good album by someone of that age. It’s a good album by someone of any age.