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Thor Polson & Friends: The Portal

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Thor Polson & Friends: The Portal

Most people who have heard of Thor Polson will have done so because of his interest in – and contribution to – the classics. His scholarship has led him to make – among other things – brilliant translations of Franz Kafka. He is also a German and Norwegian scholar and has held [variously] Latin and Greek positions at university level. Considerably travelled from a very young age, Mr Polson has been exposed to cultures as varied as India and the furthest reaches of Europe. Armed with the best experiences of academia Mr Polson has approached classical piano and this is something that informs the wonderful music of The Portal, a doffing of his proverbial hat to Minnesota musician and bandleader, Charles Shelby.

The title of this album is more than merely suggestive; it is a veritable metaphor filled with provocative music that transports us to another world altogether. It is full of glinting lights [“Norwegian Blue], mysterious depths [“A Dream Deferred” and “Threnody”]; of expectations – doubts, frustrations and hopes – as in the lofty music of “Beyond Pettus Bridge”. And all of this we view as if in shadows of a quasi-Mendelssohnian scherzo glimpsed by moonlight in a proverbial forest of concrete. Mr Polson has invited several musicians along for the ride several superb musicians including the incomparable vocalist Nancy Harms who soars heavenward on the deeply meditative “Threnody” and his breathtaking pianism is anchored throughout, by virtuoso rhythmists – bassists Dave Miller, Darrell Pridgen and Eric Solberg, and drummer Joe Dowdall. The music ascends to a rarefied realm with harmonic voices provided by way of Jeff Keys, Allan Adler,Dana Mathewson and Keith Nance.

In sheer colour and variety, in the depth of characterisation and the exceptional range of refinement of his pianism, Mr Polson here imparts considerable power and stature to this music. Moreover, the variety and stylishness of the repertoire is matched by performance throughout. Everywhere Mr Polson brings effortless urbanity and lyricism to this music, which is as seductive as it is persuasive, and an object lesson in style. Finally this music is played with buoyant, aristocratic grace and psychological ambiguity as Mr Polson displays almost insolent effortlessness and debonair virtuosity and swagger to all of this music.

Track list – 1: Bells; 2: Lamento; 3: Sparrow; 4: Norwegian Blue; 5: Beyond Pettus Bridge: A Dream Deferred; 6: Waltz for Heather; 7: Threnody; 8: Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise; 9: Crescent Beach [for Zack Polson]; 10: Potion of Solitude

Personnel – Jeff Keys: trumpet [1] and flugelhorn [2, 5]; Allan Adler: tenor saxophone [8]; Dana Mathewson: soprano saxophone [3]; Keith Nance: tenor saxophone [5], soprano saxophone [9] and flute [2]; Thor Polson: piano and keyboards [1, 8]; Dave Miller: contrabass [8]; Darrell Pridgen: electric bass [2, 5]; Eric Solberg: contrabass [1, 9, 10]; Joe Dowdall: drums and percussion [1, 2, 5, 9, 10]; Steve Watne: harmonica [6]; Nancy Harms: voice [7]

Released – 2020
Label – Independent
Runtime – 42:31

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