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#1 by Ed Thigpen

Ed Thigpen, now 73, lives in Denmark, from which jazz pool he drew some of the most accomplished players in the land in Jens Winther (trumpet), Thomas Franck (tenor saxophone), Kasper Villaume (piano), and Jesper Bodilsen (bass). The playing is exquisite throughout. On his hard bop flavored opener, "Shake It Out," everyone has room for stretching, with a particularly robust exchange between trumpet and tenor. "Wannabe," another Thigpen original, is a warm ballad that benefits from beautiful interplay between the horns. Bodilsen takes an impressive solo turn followed by Winther, whose trumpet often sounds like a flugelhorn. Franck’s tenor, by contrast, keeps the fire, albeit subdued, burning. On his "Thaddeus" Thigpen opens with a tom tom figure and then moves to the cymbals, staying on top of the composition throughout and offering some of the most impressive drumming on the set.

The band’s take on Ellington’s "In A Sentimental Mood" features Winther’s gorgeous trumpet in conjunction with Villaume’s delightful piano. The results are glorious. On "It Might As Well Be Spring," it is Franck who shares space with Villaume. Thigpen’s "Denise," further highlighting his masterful drumming, reminds a bit of a Blakey arrangement in its voicing. Vaguely Latin in structure and tempo, this is one of the highlights of a set loaded with highlights. On Duke’s Pearson’s "Is That So Bad" Villaume takes the opening lines, followed by the horn players on another lovely ballad.

Thigpen’s propulsive work on the bop-ish "Reets and I," sets a pace for Villaume’s impressive piano, followed in turn by the horns trading 8s with the drummer. "Bombay," one of the standout pieces on the disc, has a modal opening reminiscent of Coltrane, with Thigpen’s shading working superbly with the horns and piano. The closing original, "Fast Train," features his brilliant brush work on tom toms and cymbals, in front of the horns which hit in unison and gallop through interesting time signatures that give the train a sense of motion, accented brilliantly by Bodilsen’s big bass.

It has been 40 years since Thigpen came to prominence as the drummer with Oscar Peterson. Efforts like this stellar recording, one of the dozen most impressive sessions of 2004, prove that he is still at his creative and artistic peak. This is a masterpiece.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Ed Thigpen
  • CD Title: #1
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Stunt
  • Rating: Five Stars
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