“Simpler Times” CD, by Chester Thompson Trio

Today I felt this urge to let all of you know about this record because I absolutely loved it from A to Z. So, here I am. Hopefully you’ll follow my advice, purchase the CD, and tell me whether you agree with me or not. I wholeheartedly promise you will thank me!

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“Love is the only force capable of transforming enemy into friend”, says a graffiti on the wall next to the musicians in one of the CD pictures (see below). While listening to this piece of art, the feeling one gets imbued with is clearly love, universal love. This is probably the utmost contribution a group of musicians can make to humanity.

 

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This wonderful record has a wonderful-feeling name: “Simpler Times”. How does that feel to you? Yeah, I thought so.

The first two songs were written by pianist Joe Davidian. When playing first track “Elation”, one would easily think the trio is Brazilian. Learning Chester Thompson’s favorite rhythm is samba came as a big surprise to me. Well, this track sounds so Brazilian that it amazes to know musicians are from the U.S.! This song makes life seem easy, simpler than it really is, probably happier too. From this very first moment, something that called my attention was how the three members of the trio, being of different ages, can blend so masterfully. In fact, I think Thompson plays as if he were twenty years younger and the pianist and bass player sound much more mature musicians than their age would suggest. The three of them are virtuosos but their mastery of music and instruments are undoubtedly put at the service of music in this record. If you have read the interview I published some months ago, you’ll probably have the same perception I had: that the three of them are really, really listening as if they were in the audience. There is no hint of ego anywhere and the general feeling is of collective joy and collective creation. I guess that’s the reason why when I listen to this record I feel universal love emerging in me.

The co-creation among the three musicians in track number two, “You Are Sid” is so, so great! You have to listen to it! There is no way you miss having this experience if you are a music lover. This song is mostly jazzy, but it also has some hints of Brazilian feeling in it, probably given by the place where stress of phrases is. Its rhythm is jazz, though, and at this point one feels grateful for the trio formation. All notes are clearly heard and one can actually enjoy the three so distinct and so complementary sounds. How they co-create what happens here is out of this world, really.

“Joy Waltz” is a jubilant song by bass player Michael Rinne. Again, the three musicians make a wonderful piece together. There are great solos of the piano and the bass which are really enjoyable. I was elated by the choices of Chester Thompson when accompanying both the bass and the piano solos and by the magic he does with his cymbals. He plays them extremely lovingly, softly, yet so well defined. At times he chose to repeat what the bass was saying, sometimes he is highlighting one only note, creating a very distinct feeling, sometimes he fully underlines what is being said by the other two, but everything is done with such respect for music as a whole that the final result is remarkable. The bass sounds much more mature than it is logical to expect, with a superb feeling and sound, and the notes in the piano have a very crystalline quality, super well defined and beautiful.

Track 4 is beloved song “Naima” (by Coltrane). Kirk Whalum’s participation is most important in this track, which takes you to simpler times very easily. While listening to it, images of calm moments of my life kept coming. For example, one special afternoon that I spent reading a book about Kind of Blue at some wonderful flat facing the river. That afternoon I felt so much like time travelling to 1959. Well, this version of Naima took me in that same direction. I loved it, loved it, loved it. Again, his cymbals!!! Thompson transmits something very, very special through cymbals. There is something very lively with his hi-hat, and something really, really sweet in his playing of the other cymbals. His grooving is magical and the last sustained note by the bass and the sax is definitely a brilliant ending for this masterpiece.

Well, then comes “Desafinado”. How on Earth did they get the idea of changing its metric? That was such fantastic creative choice. Arrangement of this track is credited to Michael Rinne, so I take my hat off to his choices. This version sounds much more alive, much more interesting than the many versions I’ve heard of this song before. In my opinion, this trio really nailed it with this version. Again, Thompson’s co-creation of the bass solo is amazing, with so much gentleness and so lively, so musical… I fell in love with this version of this song. And the piano sounds so Tom Jobim here! This is a really great version.

“A Remark You Made” (by Zawinul) is a song that makes me so nostalgic of the early times when I first listened to Weather Report. It’s one of those songs that I’ve made mine, somehow. The piano in it is an absolute delight. The hi-hat in this song is a thrill. Due to my love for drums, I often linger my ear in the percussion section of tracks. By doing so in this one, I got a blissful sense of freedom when focusing on the hi-hat sounds. Another marvel is the double bass sound when played with the arch. And the bass keeps surprising me with its experienced sound and feeling.

“Better Get it in Your Soul”‘s version is so enjoyable. In Charles Mingus’ original version, to my taste, notes are a little too dense… like bumping into each other, or accumulated in a somehow disorderly way. However, in this Chester Thompson Trio’s version everything is clearly heard and savoring it is easy, wonderful. This is such an uplifting track! The double bass contribution is really fantastic here and the joy in the drumming is heart-warming. The piano in this track called my attention for its double quality of rhythm and melody so well unified, at the time that it creates a different, new atmosphere that feels so, so good. This is a track which had everything to become aggressive, yet it is sweet and happy.

“Serenity”, by Joe Davidian, drives us again to Brazil. I don’t know what relationship Davidian and Rinne may have with Brazil, but they seem to have listened to a lot of Brazilian music and they certainly took lots of it in with mastery. Although it is a calmer track, it is still joyful and uplifting. Those two are probably the better defining adjectives for this record. The ending notes are again a delight!

“Simpler Times”, by Rinne, should be the trio’s hit. Groovy, lively, an invitation to dance. If I loved the hi-hat in other tracks, the snare and toms fully hooked me in this one, and the whole co-creation among the three musicians. This is a song that is found live in Youtube. Go for it but there is no possible comparison of sounds with the CD. This CD is a treat worth having on our shelves.

The version of Cole Porter’s “So in Love” surprised me in the same way as Desafinado did. It’s super good. I loved the bass attitude and attack in this song. It’s as if the bass became especially lively in this song. Music becomes a perfect mix of jazz and Brazilian music, which ends up being a real delight. In this track I felt the need to bow at Chester Thompson’s amazing drumming experience, which transpires in this kind of musical gem.

“New Life”‘s calmer quality is greatly received after the increase in excitement of the previous tracks. This is a track where kindness and sweetness emerge in a very special way. It feels soothing and warm. I welcome it with much gratefulness. I ended up dancing with it. I think that’s the best thing a song can cause: the will to move, to dance, to accompany it somehow.

“Single Source” is the last track and one of the most uplifting ones from this beautiful record. When it finishes, you want to play the CD again!! This song in particular sounds amazingly young and mature at the same time. I think the mixture of ages and experiences shows here in a very special way. Sounds from this track reach several different memories and mechanisms inside… as if several worlds would suddenly become together. I cannot explain it better than that, but it’s a weird and very nice feeling.

What a wonderful CD “Simpler Times” is. I’m so very grateful to have become curious enough to really listen to it. I encourage you to do the same. Let me help you with the links where you can find it either for purchasing its digital version or its physical one:

CD Baby: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/chesterthompsontrio2

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Simpler-Times-Chester-Thompson-Trio/dp/B0176Q47SQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1477273227&sr=8-1&keywords=simpler+times+chester+thompson+trio

A final note: Joe Davidian grew up in Vermont. He started studying classical music, then was introduced into jazz by his father. He’s been a teacher since he was very young and he is a professor at Belmont University, in Nashville, TN. Michael Rinne was born in Arkansas, but currently lives in Nashville, too. Both Davidian and Rinne have recorded with several well-known artists and toured nationally and internationally. Chester Thompson’s impressive music career includes his collaboration with Frank Zappa, Weather Report, Genesis, Phil Collins and a very long list of other musicians he has played and recorded with (I was really surprised when I learned–from Hugo Fattoruso–he had even recorded with Hermeto Pascoal). He currently teaches drums at Belmont University. He is widely known by his versatility to play all styles of music. I would like to add that his creativity, independence and how he surprises us with his choices when playing is something really amazing.

PS: Spanish version of this review will be coming as soon as possible. This one naturally came up in English first.

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