Don Thompson Trio – Some Other Spring – Cornerstone CRST CD 144, 60:28 ****:
(Don Thompson – vibraphone; Reg Schwager – guitar; Neil Swainson – bass)
In dedicating Some Other Spring to the memory of vibraphonist Peter Appleyard who died in July 2013, Thompson, Schwager and Swainson were recognizing one of the early seminal figures in Canadian jazz. When Appleyard came to Toronto from England via Bermuda in the early 1950s, the city was a boneyard for Canadian jazz and jazz musicians. By the mid ‘50s Appleyard had begun to establish his reputation as a standout player with U.S. expatriate pianist Calvin Jackson’s Quartet. Although firmly anchored to Toronto, Appleyard went on to build an international reputation on his instrument.
The combination of vibraphone, guitar, and bass has some strong antecedents in jazz. From the late 1940s and early ‘50s vibraphonist Red Norvo used this iteration to great effect, especially when he had guitarist Tal Farlow and bassist Charles Mingus in the band. While Thompson, Schwager, and Swainson do not indulge in the same intricate harmonic counterpoint that Norvo espoused, they are strong-minded individual players who have a musical rapport that facilitates their strengths.
The set list is a well-constructed combination of six recognizable songs from the American jazz repertoire, and four originals, of which three are from Thompson, and one from Swainson. Although Django Reinhardt’s “Nuages” has been done to death, the group seems to have found an interpretation that opens a newfound respect for the composition. Lead by Schwager’s opening guitar line and then followed by succinct solos from Thompson and Swainson, the number is thoughtfully rendered. Both Thompson and Swainson were members of the George Shearing Quintet at one point in their careers, but were not part of his band when he originally recorded “Some Other Spring”. However it may have still be part of his book when they played together and they bring it out for a turn here. It is well-conceived arrangement, that captures the empathy among the playing partners.
The next four tracks are original compositions from Thompson and Swainson and while all are respectable endeavours, the two tracks that standout are Thompsons’ “Another Hugh” and “Snow Samba” with the former filled with an opening and closing statement that has an intricate harmonic structure. On the latter, Thompson has arranged the tune with a soft samba sensibility that captures its Brazilian origins. The final three offerings on the album are recognizable numbers, but “East Of The Sun” again references the George Shearing connection among the band members. The Latin vibe is delightfully effective in this swinging rendition.
This is a stellar trio offering full of skilfulness and interest that honours a well-respected Canadian jazz figure .
TrackList: One Morning In May; Nuages; Some Other Spring; Another Hugh; Anna’s Song; For Tom Jobim; Snow Samba; Blood Count; East Of The Sun; The Heather On The Hill