CD Steppin’ de Chester Thompson

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Hola a todos. Hoy voy a compartir mis impresiones sobre una nueva joya musical: Steppin’, un CD del que me enamoré, del gran baterista Chester Thompson.

Luego de la reconocida e impresionante carrera musical de Thompson con Frank Zappa, Weather Report, Genesis, Phil Collins, y su participación en muchos otros proyectos musicales, su trabajo en este CD nos permite llegar a conocer las capas más profundas de su contribución personal a la música.

Steppin’ es un disco que hace que te sientas realmente respetado como audiencia y te recuerda que la vida merece ser vivida y disfrutada. El sentimiento general luego de escuchar el disco completo es armonía personal profunda, coloreada con un optimismo radical y un entusiasmo honesto.

Los músicos que hicieron esta obra de arte junto con Chester Thompson son: Alphonso Johnson (bajo), Joe Davidian (piano y teclados), Roderick McGaha (trompeta), Tony Carpenter (percusión) y Akil Thompson (guitarra).

La combinación de Chester Thompson y Alphonso Johnson es mágica en sí misma, y le genera al que escucha una experiencia de alegría, dulzura y fascinación. Su combinación se siente increíblemente cómoda, como un hogar seguro, cálido, amoroso… y ¡tan brillante! La juventud y energía que transmiten es una bendición. Su música para mí es la definición de júbilo sonoro, “cool” y “groovy”.

Como si eso no fuera suficiente, la escena va completándose hasta el éxtasis con Joe Davidian en piano y teclados, Rod McGaha en trompeta, Tony Carpenter en percusión y Akil Thompson en guitarra.

Tony Carpenter y Chester Thompson son auténticos maestros del arte de tocar batería y percusión de forma musical. No hay ni un solo sonido que sea innecesario para la música y juntos, con el resto de la banda, dibujan un paisaje que en mi mente se representa como un follaje verde, con árboles muy altos, cascadas y mucha fauna… algo así como un destino tropical y pintoresco.

Akil Thompson contribuye con el ritmo y la atmósfera en los temas 1 y 4. Su guitarra le aporta al todo un toque importante de liviandad y felicidad. Me llamó la atención lo divinamente impredecible que fueron sus elecciones durante el solo de bajo en el primer tema.

Los sonidos de la trompeta de McGaha son cálidos y maravillosamente intrusivos en nuestros corazones abiertos, lo que le agregó matices que me hicieron mirar hacia adentro, con algunos instantes de nostalgia y otros de celebración. Por ejemplo, en el track “You and Me” la trompeta te desmonta cualquier armadura que puedas haberte puesto por cualquier razón y en “My Beautiful Rae” te convence de que el agradecimiento y la alegría son las únicas opciones para tu día.

Ya sea creando la atmósfera o proveyendo varias conversaciones celestiales, la contribución de Joe Davidian con el piano y el teclado es simplemente perfecta, adaptándose a los diferentes ánimos con belleza y calidez. Su solo en el track “Inversion” es uno de varios momentos en los que uno agradece que esto sea un disco y que se pueda escuchar otra vez.

En el track “Emmanuel”, McGaha y Davidian son los responsables de recordarte que elijas el equilibrio entre la alegría y la paz, con Johnson y el resto de la tripulación agregando su soporte gozoso.

Otro aspecto que me gustó del CD Steppin’ es que aunque virtuosos, los solos no son una exhibición de virtuosismo estéril sino la expresión natural de voces que realmente tienen algo que decir, y que amorosamente te movilizan cuerpo y alma, mientras todos los músicos se escuchan mutuamente, sacándole el mayor provecho a la música, ese regalo maravilloso para todos los involucrados en su magia.

La estructura de este disco de 14 pistas incluye una sorpresa especial para nosotros, los amantes de los tambores: cinco “interludes”, que son pistas cortas de percusión, que creativamente te transportan desde un matiz musical al siguiente y son regalos para aquellos de nosotros que tenemos en nuestros corazones un lugar reservado para el ritmo.

El toque de Chester Thompson hace que el mío dé saltos y me fascinó cómo este disco otra vez despliega sus rasgos más característicos: la feroz y al mismo tiempo amable llevada del tiempo en forma creativa, su backbeat súper cool, sus breaks y fills 100% musicales con sus toms cautivadores, y todo sostenido por el maravilloso toque del bombo, que no deja lugar ni a un nanosegundo de duda, llevándote a un viaje sólido, confiado, celestial y a la vez enraizado.

También amo cómo toca los platos. Lo considero uno de los maestros del hi-hat. Por ejemplo, en la pista “Morning” escuchen lo delicioso que suena el HH tanto abierto como cerrado, y en el track “The New Four” escuchen esas subdivisiones, que siendo complejas suenan increíblemente naturales y cómodas. Y sus elecciones al respecto del resto de los platos siempre son pertinentes, equilibradas, agregando la cantidad exacta de vigor pero nunca exagerando. Solo por mencionar uno de mis momentos favoritos de platos, en el track “Amari” pueden escuchar el ride más dulce del mundo… ¡y también el cross-stick más dulce!

El track “Conflagration” de alguna manera nos da la oportunidad de zambullirnos en el toque de Thompsony saborear a gusto su maravilla percutiva. El dominio que tiene de los volúmenes es, para mis oídos, algo fuera de este mundo.

Considero a Chester Thompson un baterista sabio, que hace lo que pregona: de verdad escucha cuando toca y el resultado de eso es música que uno quiere escuchar una y otra vez, por horas.

Este disco completo es una expresión de interconexión. En él se encuentra una buena representación de la vida con sus muchas capas, resaltando aquellas instancias de alegría y confianza, y sentimientos dulces y amorosos.

 

STEPPIN’

Lista de pistas y sus compositores:

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

 

Este CD se lanza hoy, 1º de mayo de 2019.
https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/chesterthompson

CD Steppin’ by Chester Thompson

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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.

STEPPIN’

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.

https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/chesterthompson

“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.