Washington Times Review

The Washington Times
February 16, 1995

Thompson Plays to Knowing Audience

by Laura Outerbridge

They work hard, those Kennedy Center performers, and when their workday is done ... it's Burnett Thompson time.

Most Fridays and Saturdays, after the ovations are over, you can find National Symphony Orchestra musicians and other performers at the West End Cafe, letting Mr. Thompson massage their stress away with his piano playing.

After all, Mr. Thompson [is] a conservatory-trained artist who mixes his own classical compositions with Cole Porter and Duke Ellington.

Mr. Thompson says he enjoys the regular visits from NSO members and other artists. He occasionally makes his own way to a Kennedy Center stage--most recently when his jazz quartet performed in the Concert Hall with Arturo Sandoval.

In the meantime, the pianist has done plenty to bring good music into the lives of Washingtonians. He's produced a series "The Piano in Washington" at the Phillips Collection Museum, concurrent with the Paley exhibit, and each May organizes the Phillips Musicale, featuring the area's best and brightest musicians.

"I think everybody's hungry for good music and something of substance," the pianist says. "it's a point I'm trying to prove--these musicians are here. You don't have to go anywhere else to find them."

Musically, Mr. Thompson changes gears effortlessly between classical music and jazz--and often brings elements of one style to the compositions of the other. His latest CD, "Uncertain Times" (Solace Records), includes standards by Ellington, the Gershwins and Cole Porter along with one Chopin waltz and his own compositions.

He improvised his version of Chopin's Waltz in A flat. Mr. Thompson says, "I haven't looked at the music on that for 20 years. If you play it for someone who knows the piece, they might get upset about it."

His own pieces, "Uncertain Time" Parts I to III, owe as much to J.S. Bach as anyone else.

"I do think about" Bach, Mr. Thompson says. "I play his music about every day, and I compare everything to Bach. He's a role model in not only what he executed but the way he lived his life."

Go back to the Uncertain Times home page.

copyright Washington Times. All rights reserved.