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Gary Thomas: Pariah’s Dance

A fiery and uncompromising energy spills off of this disc, with its edgy approach and resistance to cliche or easy tonal resolution-not to mention the open-ended air of the chordless, two-horns-bass-and-drums context. But that’s not at all to say that it lacks graceful and organically funky spirit. The nimble chemistry and mind-link between Thomas and his old comrade Greg Osby on alto, as heard in M-Base situations and in Jack DeJohnette’s Special Edition, is beautifully underscored by the rumbling eloquence of drummer John Arnold and bassist Michael Formanek. Thomas has proven himself to be formidable and stylistically flexible player, on his provocative JMT albums, his memorable deconstruct-the-standards project with Pat Metheny, Till They Had Faces, and through such sideman associations as his tete a tete with John McLaughlin in McLaughlin’s recent band. Here, Thomas’ playing, and conceptual fabric, is inspired, informed by his own past work, by free, hard bop and M-BASE notions, but leaning in a new direction, as well. Framed by the loopy-metered “Who’s in Control?” to open and the oblique neo-swing of “Is Everything Relative?” to close, the music states itself as a series of provocative questions, i.e. where do form and freedom intersect, and who has the authority on the current jazz ethos? Thomas has some fine, evolving ideas on these and other subjects.

Originally Published