The Washington Post


December 6, 1996

Mike Joyce, Washington Post Music Critic

Pianist Thompson's Blooming "Rose"

AN IMPROVISED SUITE of 15 piano solos, Burnett Thompson's "Beauty's Rose" is a triumph of mind over clatter. By turns severe and surprising, simple and sophisticated, the album finds Thompson shutting off the world's static long enough to focus intensely on spontaneous composition and matters of the heart.

In a sense Thompson isn't really alone at the keyboard. Some of his influences are readily apparent, particularly Charles Ives and Bela Bartok, and what Thompson owes to the jazz tradition is clearly evident in the free-form nature of his designs. Yet "Beauty's Rose," is a distinctly personal musical expression, a quixotic, extemporaneous meditation on love.

The quietly rippling title track, which serves as a new age-like prelude, is hardly typical of the album's contents. Soothing arpeggios soon give way to the dram whimsy and dissonance that informs much of the music. An animated conversation between Burnett's hands enlivens "Wits of Former Days." Fitful rhythms and tart, splashing harmonies bring "Tongue-Tied Muse" to life and boldly orchestrate "The Ambush of Young Days." Rumbling chords and a fetching melody transform "Beauty's Summer" into a bittersweet rhapsody. Finally, there's "I Leave My Love Alone," a pensive and fitting coda to an album that often warms the heart and piques the imagination.