by Mike Joyce
Whether you view this album in a spiritual context, as it clearly was intended, or as a celebration of jazz taproots and tangents and techniques, as it undeniably is, there's plenty of reason to keep listening.
On his previous recordings Thompson revealed a probing nature and mathematical mind, a combination which often led to abstract but not inaccessible jazz composition. Here, he shows a similar tendency to emphasize the power of his mind over matters of prevailing fashion, an admirable trait to be sure. But because he's now writing for a jazz sextet (or various permutations of it), he's able to fully orchestrate his musical ideas, which derive from classical as well as jazz theory.
Inspired by the Bible's opening book of Genesis, "Creation" has an overarching theme, as chaos ultimately leads to a calming spiritual resonance, and it's a theme Thompson illuminates with great imagination and ingenuity. As an aggregate, the album's 11 performances suggest the broad scope of jazz history, from the fundamental appeal of blues and Dixieland to the rude dissonances and uninhibited daring of the avant garde. Each of the pieces, however, manages to stand alone, radiating a certain warmth, lyricism, energy or boldness of its own.
To his credit, Thompson often surrenders the spotlight to his talented collaborators -- flutist Joseph Cunliffe, saxophonist Chris Vadala, trumpeter Craig Fraedrich, bassist Ephriam Wolfolk, and percussionist Rod Youngs -- who account for much of the album's inspired and often wondrously subtle interplay. Yet even when Thompson isn't at the piano, establishing an intriguing mood or design, it's not uncommon to sense his distinctive musical presence hovering in the background.