This straightahead outing stands in contrast to Thomas’s more adventurous and innovative programmes of originals, and it was momentarily surprising to discover that it has sold well in excess of his conceptually more interesting By Any Means Necessary (reviewed June 1990); I suppose that simply reflects the conservatism of the average jazz listener.
At any event, though the material here is routine, Thomas’s playing certainly isn’t. On such uptempo pieces as Strode Rode and Epistrophy he develops a ferocious intensity and momentum, his lines conveying a sense of mounting and explosive tension.
It’s not inappropriate that the session opens with a Sonny Rollins tune, since Thomas’s extraordinarily penetrating, bristling tone has something in common with Rollins’s. There are also strong suggestions in his lines of Coltrane and Brecker, although Thomas has denied direct links. What is beyond doubt is that he is one of a handful of newer players with a unique and instantly recognisable style.
Thomas’s next set will return to the work begun on his Enja and first JMT albums. In the meantime, this session sorts out his jazz credentials in certain terms, adding to his achievements elsewhere in this idiom as a sideman.
Strode Rode; Star Eyes; You Stepped Out Of A Dream; The Song Is You; Invitation; Chelsea Bridge; On The Trail; Epistrophy (59.11)
Thomas (ts/O; Kevin Eubanks (elg); Renee Rosnes (p/syn); Dave Holland, Anthony Cox (b); Dennis Chambers (d). New York, May 1990.
(JMT 834 439-2)