Sir Charles Thompson: Robbins’ Nest: Live at the Jazz Showcase

Sir Charles, composer of the bop anthem “Robbins’ Nest” and pianist on sessions with Bird, Dexter Gordon and Coleman Hawkins, among others, recorded this album last August-at age 82. Always a spare, Basie-influenced keyboard man, he maintains his customary neatness, steady beat and tastefulness throughout this live date from Chicago. For the first six songs and the last tune, he employs a trio: bassist Eddie de Haas and drummer Charles Braugham. On the intervening five, reedman Eric Schneider joins the group, with trumpeter Art Hoyle aboard for a single appearance.

The trio tracks-the title tune, “S’Wonderful,” “Tunis In (Tune Us In),” “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” “Body and Soul” and “A Boogie Woogie”-offer clear melody statements, bop- and/or swing-based improvisation (both linear and chordal) and a few piano-and-drums trades. On the title track, Thompson gets into an Erroll Garner groove with his left-hand accompaniment. De Haas’ big-beat walk and Braugham’s fluid drums are ideal.

The temperature rises when Schneider leaps in on tenor on Hawkins’ “Stuffy,” swinging and devouring the changes in the manner of the composer and Illinois Jacquet. Basie’s uptempo “The King” is even better and features a great Schneider solo. A Websterlike “I Never Knew” is also a delight. Where has Schneider been hiding?

It’s good to have Sir Charles back on an American label after several albums for foreign companies. And it’s good to hear his nicely structured style again and in such fine company.