Home Made in Canada Phil Dwyer & Don Thompson: Look for the Silver Lining

Phil Dwyer & Don Thompson: Look for the Silver Lining

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Phil Dwyer and Don Thompson

Phil Dwyer and Don Thompson - Look For The Silver LiningGiven that duos and duets are all about harmony, it is surprising how many actually fall by the wayside exactly because this harmony is what they lack. But not—certainly not—this duo between tenor saxophonist Phil Dwyer and pianist Don Thompson, who have made this enthralling record Look for the Silver Lining. This is a recording that evokes the hushed beauty and the nuanced colours and the dimly-lit intimacy of the recordings—albeit trio ones—made by the great reeds and woodwinds player Jimmy Giuffre with pianist Paul Bley and bassist Steve Swallow. Despite the obvious difference in the numerical setting the recording is magically comparable because of the extraordinary timekeeping and bass line melodicism of Don Thompson. And yet that should come as no real surprise. Mr. Thompson is a true rarity in the world of music; someone who is made so completely of music that he seems to exude song and dance; melody and harmony and rhythm. He is truly a person of musical genius, blessed with a musical intellect and hands that can embrace instruments as diverse as the piano, the bass and the vibes and heaven knows what else, should he decide to put his mind to it.

Mr. Thompson’s playing on Look for the Silver Lining is transcendent. His sweeping two-handed lines leap and frolic like a pair of excited impalas that occasionally also dart from plane to musical plane, their boundless energy a reminder that natural beauty is both raw and refined. This is also reminiscent of the great players who once employed the bebop metaphor in an era long past, but impossible to live down. Mr. Thompson’s rousing arpeggios and runs telescope, one into the other, in the manner that describes the music of Herbie Nichols. But, of course the music is singularly his own. Its brilliance rings radiantly in “If I Were a Bell,” is melancholy, yet strangely uplifting in “Autumn Nocturne” and really effervescent in Charlie Parker’s “Au Privave.” It takes almighty skill to negotiate the improvisations that Mr. Thompson does in “You And The Night And The Music,” as the narrative moves with almost viscous sensuality through the bodies seemingly entwined in that song. And there is an elemental sadness in the exquisite beauty of “I’ll Be Around.” However, it should be stressed here that he is not alone in emotion and dazzling virtuosity. The saxophonist Phil Dwyer meets Mr. Thompson more than halfway during all of the music.

It does pay to remember this is duo recording and no one is more mindful of this than the players themselves—especially Phil Dwyer. Here is a musician of immense charm, obvious talent and extraordinary responsiveness. Don Thompson may be the senior partner here, but this is merely a matter of chronology. Mr. Dwyer is every bit the epitome of great beauty, astounding virtuosity and singular style. His music comes from deep with his body; from the pit of his stomach and the bottom of his lungs. Make no mistake, this requires an almost supernatural bonding with both the instrument and mind and body. Moreover Mr. Dwyer’s playing is moist and warm. His tone, additionally, is full of the rusts and burgundies of the earth, which suggest that the saxophonist employs a palette that is broad and somewhat beyond the scope of his instrument. He seems to sing, almost vocally as he blows his big horn from somewhere deep within his soul. Mr. Dwyer is an emotional player, who wears his feelings on his sleeve that is almost moist with tears at times, as it is in “What’s New?” And that is not the only place where Mr. Dwyer excels.

The fact is: this is a duet where musicians are entwined like the double helix. Developing this musical molecule requires that both musicians sing and listen as well. The soaring aspect of the music—in “You And The Night And The Music,” or “I’ll Be Around”—for instance, indicates that there is something special going on in the music of this recording. It is not easy to pin point magical relationships. Suffice it to say that this is one, where genius meets skill; where technique melts into and sustains the raw and deep emotion that swirls into the music of this priceless record.

Track List: If I Were A Bell; Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry; Just You Just Me; Autumn Nocturne; How About You?; What’s New?; You And The Night And The Music; I’ll Be Around; Touch Of Your Lips; Au Privave.

Personnel: Phil Dwyer: tenor saxophone; Don Thompson: piano.

Label: Triplet Records | Release date: February 2014

Website: tripletrecords.com | Buy music on: amazon

About Phil Dwyer

On Dec. 30, 2013 Phil Dwyer was appointed as a Member of the Order Of Canada. He was cited for “his contributions to jazz as a performer, composer and producer, and for increasing access to music education in his community.” This comes as Dwyer looks back at an illustrious 30 year career which has crossed stylistic and geographic borders and has included collaborations with a storied roster of great musical artists.

About Don Thompson

Donald (Don) Thompson (pianist, bassist, vibraphonist, composer, arranger, producer, and educator) was born January 18, 1940 in Powell River, British Columbia, Canada. After taking piano lessons as a young child, he took up the string bass and the vibraphone in his teens, all instruments on which he is basically self-taught. He moved to Vancouver in 1960 and began his career as a professional musician. During the period between 1960 and 1965, Thompson appeared with groups led by some of Vancouver’s finest musicians including Dave Robbins, Fraser McPherson, and Chris Gage.

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