SR5008: Just In Time -- Earma Thompson
“Pianist Earma Thompson has chops to spare throughout this rewarding CD, mostly duets with bassist John Whitfield. Her playfulness comes through in the swinging take of "Just in Time," while Thompson's spunky side comes through in the bop favorite "Billie's Bounce." She adds a bossa nova beat to her hip interpretation of “You Stepped Out of a Dream” then adds a dark undercurrent to a swinging take of “Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise.” It is also hard to ignore the gutsy, blues-drenched interpretation of "After Hours" and a driving, soulful take of "Back at the Chicken Shack." Tenor saxophonist John Brumbach is added for Miles Davis’ "Vierd Blues" and Gene Ammons’ "Ge-ru." Hopefully a follow-up CD is already in the works. Highly recommended.”
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“… On this disc, accompanied by John Whitfield on bass, Thompson displays her keyboard facility, expressive warmth and deep-dyed knowledge of jazz and pop standards. Stylistically conservative, she has an ingratiating tone (well-recorded here on a Baldwin SD-10 concert grand) and an improvisatory method that manages to avoid stale choices. On “Witchcraft,” she even suggests spells more subtle than Sinatra, who made the song his own. She often opts for gentle tempos that could be lulling in the hands of pianists less schooled in the boisterous bars of Chicago’s South Side. But Thompson’s perky phrasing and unerring sense of swing offer a fresh, zesty slant on such chestnuts as “Softly, As In a Morning Sunrise” and “I Hear A Rhapsody.” Whitfield is a more than capable partner throughout, and the duo profitably welcomes guest tenor saxophonist John Brumbach to sit in on two numbers.”
“Earma Thompson is a long-established piano player in one of America's Jazz centers, Chicago, so you know she must be pretty good. On Just In Time she plays with only bass accompaniment for the most part, really exposing her sound nakedly and she comes through fine. She's a solid blues-based player out of Bud Powell's lineage. There's a bit of the piano lounge in her style but not enough to keep her from being constantly swinging and rhythmic. On two tracks tenor player John Brumbach joins her giving some weight to the music and pushing Thompson to more inventiveness. The blues seems to be something she thrives on. She does the old chestnuts “After Hours” and “Back at the Chicken Shack” in unhurried but sly fashion, rolling across the keys with real soul and style. Thompson is a veteran player with craftiness and panache.”
“Even if Earma Thompson isn't a name recognized by many fans of piano, it should be. Chicago's golden era of jazz and blues gets a hearty remembrance on this all too short trip back in time but it's something to be treasured and enjoyed over and over again. Billie's
Bounce/ Back At The Chicken Shack/ After Hours, and I Remember You swing relentlessly with Thompson's touch on the ivories and John Whitfield's bass while John Brumbach delivers throaty tenor saxophone to Miles Davis' Vierd Blues and Gene Ammons' Ger-ru.”
"It would be a misnomer to call pianist Earma Thompson and “unknown” or “undiscovered” Chicago talent; her gifts have been respected in the city’s jazz community since she first hit the scene over half a century ago. But for years she eschewed the public eye, preferring to focus her energies on homemaking and raising her son. During this time she performed sporadically; since the 80’s she’s been working more often, expanding her reputation throughout the city.
Thompson came of age at the nexus between the swing and bebop eras; her playing evokes both influences. Buoyed by an unerring rhythmic sureness, she constructs linear melody lines and then jabs and prods them into angular shapes, throwing in impish off-time accents and chordal abstractions. But the sometimes caustic sense of angst that characterized the work of bebop pioneers like Bud Powell (to say nothing of Bird himself) is absent: from start to finish, this set is a celebration of life.
Thompson evokes Bill Evans with her gently percussive block chords on You Stepped Out Of A Dream but, prodded by bassist John Whitfield, she avoids Evans’ occasional tendency to brood. She takes I Remember You at a romping mid-tempo, reinforcing the tune’s sentimental theme by laying plangent, deeply colored chords beneath lithe treble lines. She digs with light-fingered relish into Vierd Blues, a seldom-heard Miles Davis 12-bar workout, as saxophonist John Brumbach rides smoothly over the top with clean-textured embellishments on the theme. Back At The Chicken Shack combines grits-and-gravy ebullience with – there's no other way to say this &ndash ladylike elegance.
It’s rare these days to find music that will leave you with both a smile on your face and a satisfied mind - this is exactly that kind of set."