Ben Thomas


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On his sophomore album as a group leader, Ben Thomas uses a solid quartet format with an additional rotating sax or clarinet. On Mystagogue, the vibist makes good on the promise of the title -- he introduces new listeners into the religious rites of jazz, showing the relics and holding the ceremonies. In a less metaphorical sense, Thomas and his band power their way through a fine mix of post-bop, hard bop, and modern jazz, all Thomas originals. The interplay between musicians is excellent here, with Thomas and pianist Laura Caviani exchanging lengthy, virtuosic solos (listen for hints of Art Tatum in Caviani) and occasionally comping one another, Clipper Anderson providing a nice walking bass, and drummer John Bishop alternately tapping out a quiet cadence or crashing the cymbals to keep the overall volume up. The rotating horns play well in front of the band, mingling with the sound nicely. The songs blend well into one another, with the whole standing out more than the parts. This one is definitely worth a listen for a contemporary take on the vibes that's still influenced by the various masters.

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