Monday, November 8, 2010

Ken Thomson: It Would Be Easier If

Ken Thomson (bass clarinet, alto sax)
It Would Be Easier If (Intuition Records)
Russ Johnson (trumpet)
Nir Felder (guitar)
Adam Armstrong (bass)
Fred Kennedy (drums)

It Would Be Easier If is a clear, inventive yet diverse record from a mainstay on the New York scene, Ken Thomson. A co-founder of the avant garde jazz/rock band Gutbucket and collaborator with the versatile Bang On A Can, Thomson present an incredible debut as leader with elements of classical, free jazz and rock even paced throughout It Would Be Easier If.

This is an album that I think a lot of people will find different parts to like. There are moments of Gutbucket, Praxis, John Zorn's Painkiller that make for electrifying listening. But then just as firecracker of this music ignites you get a taste of Thomson's excellent jazz and chamber music arrangements.

Opening with the bewitchingly intricate "Kleine Helmet", with some outstanding delivery from Russ Johnson on trumpet and Thomson on bass clarinet. "Kleine Helmet" is beautiful example of the album as a whole. It is gentle throughout but encases some extraordinary arrangements that swing both in the direction of small group classical settings and free floating jazz conceptional thought.

"Goddamn You Ice Cream Truck" cuts against the grain of the It Would Be Easier If with Thomson bringing his Gutbucket inspirations into the proceedings. "Goddamn You Ice Cream Truck" is a fun and boisterous experience with Nir Felder's fiery, improvised chord changes augmented by the bombastic interplay between the rest of the members of the quintet--sonic bliss indeed.

With "Goddamn..." being the propulsive center point, the rest of the session is a more introspective and balance affair. "No, No, No" is the albums warmest moment. Led by some beautiful drumless electronic work from Fred Kennedy and fuzzy atmospheric guitar on the part of Felder this piece transforms into a wonderful meditative statement.

"No, No, No" then opens up to "Wanderangst" which finds its rhythm midway through and the sizzling syncopation that the quintet performs especially Thomson on clarinet is absolutely phenomenal. The compositional elements on "Wanderangst" are extremely refreshing.

The album closes with the title track, a slow progression but bold in nature. It again features some stellar interplay between Johnson and Thomson.

It Would Be Easier If is fantastic combination of Ken Thomson well structured chamber arrangements and superiour improvisation on the part of each member of the ensemble. It's great to see Thomson finally put all his thoughts and influences into one place and no better way than on his debut. It Would Be Easier If is an impressive work for an artist and composer that I hope will record more as leader and someone you should most certainly check out. I really love this record.

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