Ben Thomas

The Mystagogue

origin 82381

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MUSIC REVIEW BY John Barrett, Jr., Jazz USA

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Power -it's here by the truckload. While Ben Thomas brings his mallets down hard, his band stretches in serpentine, Zappa-like themes. There's tons of sustain on the title track, endless harmony for the drums to crash against. After Ben's mighty solo, we hear Eric Likkel's nervous clarinet, waddling with delight. His notes are delicate, and somehow fit amidst all this power. What is a mystagogue? Judging by the tune, something wonderful.

From this high standard, the tunes that follow are equally visceral. "Whatever Stupid" opens with a great-chorded strum, courtesy of bassist Clipper Anderson. Thomas rings brightly, like glass bells; beneath is a wall of cymbals. A tenor blasts through "Livin' with Mama"; this is Rick Mandyck, whose strut is worthy of Fathead Newman. Ben steps back and lets him work - with a sound like that, you don't get in the way. The horn's more relaxed for "Bridge at White Creek", a meandering bopline. Thomas is bouncy, a warmer tone than he's had before; Clipper has a good solo and Mandyck glides along. Come "Tomorrow Night", the vibes are cerebral: Ben's solo reminds me of Walt Dickerson, only with more sustain. "Dragonfly" is adventuresome, if slightly aimless; "Loochy" hops with joyful chords. (It also has the best solo of Laura Caviani, the pianist.) And "Dorothy's Green Slippers" takes us into the night, with feathery soprano and twinkling vibes. The mysteries on this disc are many, and all are fun to hear.






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