Al Thompson Jr.,
City Mainstream
(Alcagar, 2013)

Al Thompson Jr. is a new voice on the recording scene. Born, raised and still living in Connecticut, he has confined his career to the New England area until now. With the release of his first CD, he signals that he intends to extend his reach.

City Mainstream is an ambitious album. Pianist Thompson writes and plays in many different styles with four different bands on the disc. Listening, you get the feeling that the major purpose of the album is to showcase Thompson's versatility; his stuff ranges from the uptempo, bop-like opener, "The Chase," a tune built on repetitions and a hard driving group of solos, to the live performance, "8th Avenue Safari," which creates a vivid picture of that street on a Saturday night.

We get small-group bop, some radio-friendly smooth jazz and some big band material. You'd think that with so many styles going and so many congregations of musicians, the focus of the album would be lost, but it isn't. By using as its main theme the idea of exploring the city, the album maintains unity.

That's not the whole of it, though. Thompson also keeps things focused by consistently coming up with good tunes and tight bands -- the disc does not sound as though it were played by four different bands. There is a consistency in the playing that keeps it solid and listenable.

If you want good tunes, well played in a variety of types and styles -- all good -- then City Mainstream is for you.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

6 April 2013

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