CD Steppin’ by Chester Thompson


Hi everyone. Today I’ll share my impressions on a musical jewel: Steppin’, a CD I have fallen in love with, by the great drummer Chester Thompson.

After Thompson’s renown outstanding musical career with Frank Zappa, Weather Report, Genesis, Phil Collins, and his participation in several other music projects, his work in this CD enables us to get to know the deepest layers of his personal contribution to music.

Steppin’ is a record that makes you feel truly respected as a listener and reminds you that life deserves being lived and enjoyed. The general feeling after listening to the whole CD is deep personal harmony colored with radical optimism and honest excitement.

Musicians who made this piece of art together with Chester Thompson are Alphonso Johnson (bass), Joe Davidian (piano and keyboards), Roderick McGaha (trumpet), Tony Carpenter (percussion) and Akil Thompson (guitar).

The combination of Chester Thompson and Alphonso Johnson is magical in itself, generating a joyful, sweet, and mesmerizing time to the listener. Their combination feels amazingly comfortable, like a secure, warm, loving home… and crazily brilliant! The youth and energy they transmit is a blessing and their playing is to me the definition of cool, groovy, sound elation.

As if that was not enough, everything builds up to an ecstatic scene with Joe Davidian on piano and keyboards, Rod McGaha on trumpet, Tony Carpenter on percussion and Akil Thompson in guitar.

Tony Carpenter and Chester Thompson really master the art of playing drums and percussion in a musical way. There’s not one sound that is unnecessary for the music and they, together with the rest of the band, design a landscape that keeps forming in my mind as rich in green foliage, with very high trees, cascades and lots of fauna… kind of a tropical picturesque destination.

Akil Thompson contributes to the rhythm and atmosphere in songs 1 and 4. His guitar gives an important touch of lightness, of happiness to the whole thing. It called my attention how beautifully unpredictable were the choices of the guitarist during the bass solo in song one.

McGaha’s trumpet sounds are warm and wonderfully intrusive into our welcoming hearts, which added shades that make me look within, with instants of both longing and celebration. For example, on track “You and Me” the trumpet dismantles any armor you may have put around for any reason and on “My Beautiful Rae” it convinces you that gratefulness and joy are the only options for your day.

Either creating the atmosphere or providing a thousand divine conversations, Joe Davidian’s contribution with the piano and keyboards is just perfect, blending into different moods with beauty and warmth. His solo on track “Inversion” is one of the several moments when one thanks this is a record and replaying is possible.

On track “Emmanuel”, McGaha and Davidian are responsible for reminding you to choose balance between joy and peace, with Johnson and the rest of the crew adding his cheerful support.

Another aspect I liked about CD Steppin’ is the fact that though virtuous, solos in it are not an exhibition of sterile virtuosity but the natural expression of voices that really have something to say, lovingly moving your body and soul, while all musicians listen to one another, making the most out of music, such marvelous gift to all involved in its magic.

The structure of this 14-track record includes a special treat for us, drum lovers: five so called “interludes”, short tracks of percussion only, which creatively lead you from one musical hue to the next and are gifts for those who have a distinct place for rhythm in their hearts.

Chester Thompson’s drumming makes mine jump of excitement and I loved how this record again displays his characteristic traits: creative, fierce yet gentle time keeping,  super cool backbeat, one hundred percent musical breaks and fills with his enthralling toms, and all supported by the great bass drum playing which gives no room to a nanosecond of doubt, taking you into a solid, confident, heavenly yet grounded ride.

I also love how he uses all cymbals. I consider him one of the masters of hi-hat playing. Check, for example, track “Morning” and listen how delightful the open and closed HH sound, and to track “The New Four” and listen to those subdivisions, which being complex, sound amazingly natural and comfortable. And his choices when it comes to the rest of cymbals are always pertinent, balanced, adding just the right amount of stamina but never overreacting. Just to mention one of my favorite cymbal moments, on track “Amari” you may listen to the sweetest ride playing… and the sweetest cross-stick playing too!

Track “Conflagration” somehow gives you the opportunity to plunge into Thompson’s drumming and fully savoring his drum wonder. His command of volumes is, to my ears, something out of this world.

I consider Chester Thompson a wise drummer who does what he preaches: he really listens when he plays, the result being music you want to play again and again for hours.

This whole record is an expression of interconnectedness. In it you find a good representation of life with its many layers and highlighting those instances of joy and confidence and sweet, loving feelings.


List of tracks and composers:

Steppin’ – Chester Thompson, Joe Davidian

Inversion – Chester Thompson, Joe Davidian

Interlude 1 – Chester Thompson, Anthony Carpenter

Morning – Chester Thompson, Joe Davidian

Interlude 2 – Chester Thompson, Anthony Carpenter

Emmanuel – Rosalind Clark Thompson

Interlude 3 – Chester Thompson, Anthony Carpenter, Roderick McGaha

Conflagration – Chester Thompson

You and Me – Joe Davidian

My Beautiful Rae – Roderick McGaha

Interlude 4 – Chester Thompson, Anthony Carpenter, Roderick McGaha

The New Four – Joe Davidian

Interlude 5 – Chester Thompson, Anthony Carpenter

Amari – Roderick McGaha

This CD is being released today, on May 1st, 2019.


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