Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ed Thigpen's "The Element of Swing": Find It!

Cover (The Element of Swing:Ed Thigpen)

Ed Thigpen Rhythm Features
The Element of Swing
Stunt Records 2002

Find this disc, put it on, and listen to a simply great session among the three trio members -- Thigpen on drums, Jesper Bodilsen on bass, and Carsten Dahl on piano -- and the featured guest, Joe Lovano, on tenor sax, and once on bass clarinet. This is a great live session, recorded beautifully at the Copenhagen Jazz house in 2001.

I am not so sure everyone remembers who Ed Thigpen was (he passed away at age 79 in 2010), as he lived in Copenhagen since 1972 and mostly toured and taught in Europe, and recorded only a few times on some smaller or foreign  labels like Stunt or Japan's Pony Canyon. In his heyday,  Ed Thigpen was most famous for his longtime work in the Oscar Peterson Trio, but he got his start earlier playing with Cootie Williams from 1951-1952, Dinah Washington (1954), Lennie Tristano, Johnny Hodges, Bud Powell, and Billy Taylor's Trio (1956-1959).  He was known for his quiet yet swinging style and brushwork, and was a perfect team member with Peterson and bassist Ray Brown for 10 years. After leaving Peterson, Thigpen worked with Ella Fitzgerald during 1966-1972, and finally settled in Copenhagen in 1972.  In Europe, he continued playing with the who's who of jazz, and then the group Rhythm Features in 1998.

The two Danes in the trio, Carsten Dahl and Jesper Bodilsen, are also not well known here in the U.S. but are major players on the European scene. Dahl actually began his career as a drummer, studying with Thigpen, but quikly changed to piano and has led countless trios on the Stunt and Storyville labels. I would recommend a listen of his 2011 recording on Storyville "Effata." in particular. Bodilsen has been mostly a support player, but his support has been for many of the top names in jazz piano like Kasper Villaume, Stephano Bollani, and George Colligan.

For the band's second recording, tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano joins, and the live concert is nothing short of spectacular. While Lovano is out front on many of the songs, there is ample oportunity for each of the others to demonstratae thier abilities and proclivities to swing. The works were written by band members along with a pair of great songs, "Lonnie's Lament" by John Coltrane and Billy Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge," the latter played so gorgeously it can make you cry.   The group struts its stuff on the toe-tapping opener "Sweet Mama", plays a great bop song with solos by Dahl and Lovano on "Hello Joe" demonstrates a great feel for the blues on "Like Blues", and burn it out on ETP.

Simply put, this is great stuff by great players and should be high up on anyone's list of purchases. Great melodies are played mostly inside for the traditionalists, but there is so much great improvisation that it will please those who want the music to burn a bit. Lovano's tenor is controlled, round, and warm throughout, even when he burns, and Dahl's mastery of the keyboards will surprise those who have never heard him

Put this on your must list.

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