Born: January 1, 1968
Thom Keith was born in Rochester, New Hampshire during the first Nixon administration. He grew up in a home filled with the sounds of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Coltrane, Walt Dickerson, Air, and David Murray courtesy of a very musical family. At the age of 11, he took up the alto saxophone, later switching to tenor, and still later, bari.
Much schooling and a varied education from the school of life lead him into the field of secondary education. Other factors reinvigorated his musical pursuits in recent years and his chief hobby has turned into a second career � that of the weekend warrior Jazz musician....
For their eponymous studio release (Avant Coast 3), Trio Encompas delivers a similar program [to Live on the Vaughn Mall]. But they give the repeated tunes a different feel. For example, they impart Jetlag Blues with the kind of limber strut of an early David Murray date—it's a couple notches below in terms of technical facility but that's the feel, the same kind of intense motivic grinding. The spacious, almost airy Continental Drift is a nice changeup. And I dig the slowly unfurling groove on Sunspots and Uncle. Overall, I think I prefer the live date, but both are worthy.
John Book THE RUN-OFF GROOVE
With their We Wake (Avant Coast) album, this jazz improv band take on the trio angle and play the kind of jazz that sounds like workshop jazz on that Peter Brotzmann vibe. Everything is free form but there is movement throughout, so it's not just doodling and noodling. Mike Walsh (drums), Thom Keith (saxophones) and Tim Webb take on this music mission with ease. Each of the album's four songs are at least 12 minutes long, with the longest track (Warm Up) clocking in at a nice 16:06. What you hear is assembly at its best, three mechanics putting together the songs and eventually meeting, turning heads, turning their backs on each other, and then going in for the kill, only to mix up that formula, remove a few things and add a few more. It's an album that feels a bit inward, and one almost wants to get involved to see how their input could add to the music they're doing here.
With their latest album Regeneration X (Avant Coast) the group added a new member into the group, trombonist Derek Kwong, and just when I thought things couldn't get better, it does. Kwong is the Mentos to the group's Coca-Cola, and it's great to hear him and Keith bounce ideas off of each other as they bring in Walsh and Webb in for the kill. At times, Walsh and Webb are locked into each other like fingercuffs, and they're off doing their thing while Kwong and Keith are on the other end doing theirs. Of course these guys are fully aware of what's going on, and when they find that moment to bring everything together, it's pure magic. The workshop vibe is still there but the sound quality here is a major step up from We Wake, so one is able to focus a bit better on each musician and their contributions. This is effective in Cryptozoology, as the group come in playing at an eerie crawl before settling on a rhythm and creating a scene that isn't unlike some of the best free jazz of the 1970's. Webb's bass work throughout the album, but especially in Cryptozoology, is subtle but he at times is the anchor that make sure everyone comes back to his rhythm, only for him to turn around and start jamming with Walsh, whose drumming is powerful throughout.
Orchestrated freedom, this is what I hear in Equal Time, and they each give equal time to each other but when they start improvising together all at once, it is their time and the intensity has to be heard and experienced to be believed.
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