Tom Beckham


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It's always a refreshing change of pace to hear a good vibraphonist. Tom Beckham's accessible, laid-back compositions and resplendent playing style make Suspicions an album worth seeking out. Woodwinds and mallets are an alluring instrumental combination, and Chris Cheek's tenor and soprano sax work indeed shines against the contrasting texture of Beckham's vibes. Bassist Reid Anderson and drummer George Schuller complete the lineup, providing a sensitive rhythmic underpinning for this pretty, melodic music. (Anderson also takes several passionate solos.) Highlights include the slinky 3/4 of the title track, the driving Afro-Latin 6/8 of "Village Children," the lilting pleasantness of "Ascent," and the more angular, swinging "No Agenda." Beckham's ingenuity is at its height, however, on "Sweet Tooth," a three-minute gem built around a rubato theme; a two-chord vamp ends the form and is the only time the piece goes into tempo. Beckham plays similar tricks with tempo in the first and last tunes on the disc: "Village Children," the vigorous opener, slips unexpectedly into a ballad tempo toward its conclusion, while "Kansas Tale," the closing ballad, segues into a lively vamp before fading out. These mirror-image transitions are the essence of subtlety, and they distinguish Beckham as a superior conceptualist.

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