Ken Thomson’s passion for the past decade is to fuse the intensity, complexity, and thematic cohesiveness of modern composition -- music that he would write (and has written) for orchestra or string quartet -- with the spontaneity and openness of jazz, and in so doing, to push the sound of jazz forward. He creates music where neither the composition nor the improvisation can live without each other.
This record and ensemble is the culmination of an ongoing series of recordings Thomson has made to unify these traditions. After two releases with his cross-genre ensemble Slow/Fast, the Bang on a Can All-Star reedist has expanded his ensemble to include alto and tenor saxophones, trumpet and trombone (a classic combination in jazz), and dropped the chordal instrument, leaving bass and drums. With four horns, the palette is bigger and broader, and the composition is the most ambitious it ever has been. The music is rooted to tradition and yet sounds fresh.
The concept of the album is a homage to Thelonious Monk’s “Monk’s Music” LP, where Monk focuses on his originals but begins with a chorale from the church, “Abide with Me.” Thomson has updated this concept to the 21st Century, both in terms of his own composition and its influences but also creating a direct parallel -- using a Gyorgy Ligeti harpsichord passacaglia from 1978 as the opening statement, which he arranged for four wind instruments, as a prelude. Thereafter, the music pushes forward, with each composition making its own statement and its own stamp; these are long-form pieces and the 52-minute disc also has 6 original works on it.