Cadence Magazine Review

Cadence Magazine
May 1995

Burnett Thompson
Uncertain Times

Compact Disc
Solace Records 1001

By Richard B. Kamins

A catchy title for a fine group of solo piano pieces. T he cleverly written liner notes (by the artist) give the listener an idea of Mr. Thompson's musical roots but a careful listen to the music tells more. He romps through "Prelude To A Kiss," imbuing the piece with plenty of emotion. His left hand goes thro ugh more styles in the four-plus minutes, from Tatum to blues to sparse, impressionistic chords. It's as if Thompson was in Mr. Ellington's drawing room while the composition was being conceived. The 17 track program covers a lot of musical territory, fro m Chopin to Cole Porter to Bach to Billy Joel to the pianist's original three-part title track. I enjoy the way that Thompson approaches each composition. The gospel chords in Gershwin's "How Long Has This Been Going On" remind me of Randy Newman and ther e is a wistful, innocent feel to Porter's "Let's Do It." There is a transitory light-heartedness during the short runthrough of "As Time Goes By." Thompson arranges "You Do Something To Me" in a fascinating way--the piece opens as a ballad, then he follow s the chordal pattern that speeds the piece up, and, as the chords thicken, the tempo slows down (referring back to the disc's title). The tentativeness of the rhythm could be compared to falling in love; slowly at first, then headlong into infatuation, n ext reflection leading to joy, than happiness.

Despite the stated fact that Thompson never goes a day without playing or listening to Bach, he chose to record Frederic Chopin's "Waltz in A flat" and it fits right in next to the Ellington and Porter wi thout a glitch. Technically, Thompson shows a flair for the romantic side of Chopin. That track comes right after Part 3 of Thompson's "Uncertain Times: Toccatta and Chorale," which is where one can hear the influence of Bach. There is, also, a sophistica ted wit at work in the headlong rush of the left hand pitted against the tentativeness of the right hand. Part 2 opens with a slow melody that initially sounds like Monk's "Mysterioso." The other Thompson original is titled "Aboard The Lucy Allen" and has a swing feel with a few bars of waltz time thrown in for good measure.

By the time one gets to the end, which is a lovely reading of Billy Joel's "So It Goes," you realize that Thompson is truly a fine pianist and interpreter. If you approach Uncerta in Times as hip background music, you will not be disappointed. Still, this is a very personal work and, on deeper listening, this is a musician who has worked to put his life into the music. In this day and age of impersonal and disposable music, hang on to Burnett Thompson's disc--highly recommended.

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