Welcome to the first in what I hope will be a growing series of posts about new albums being put out by one of the talented jazz musicians or groups in and around Rochester, NY. The first is by local drummer (and Eastman professor) Rich Thompson, who is asking that perennial question of those breaking into anything new with his new album Who Do You Have to Know? on Origin Records out of Seattle, Washington. The quartet on the album includes Bobby Floyd on piano and organ, Corey Christiansen on guitar and Peter Chwazik on bass.
Rich, an Associate Professor of Jazz Studies and Contemporary Media at Rochester’s Eastman School of Music, isn’t “breaking in” to the world of jazz, he’s been there a long time as a educator and veteran sideman, touring and recording with Byron Stripling and other well-known jazz musicians as well as the Count Basie Orchestra, and Glenn Miller Orchestra. He directs the Eastman Jazz Lab Band. He performs with numerous symphonies in the U.S. and Canada. You may have also seen him as a featured drummer at Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Pops concerts. Locally, you’ll see Rich playing with his bands Trio East and Rich Thompson’s Trio “Generations” (if you check out my listings posts, that is….).
I asked Rich a few questions about Who Do You Have to Know? Below I've set out his answers, edited slightly for clarity. More information and links about the album on where you can get your own copy or stream it are at the end of this post, as well as a link to stream the title cut.
What made you decide to record this album?
After performing all over the US, Switzerland, and on five jazz cruises with Bobby Floyd while playing with Byron Stripling Quartet, I knew that I had to record a project with Bobby, other than the ones recorded previously. I wanted to give Bobby more of a lead role in the group. His ability to craft a melody, accompany others, and fire up an organ solo had to be heard. After performing with Corey at the Las Vegas Arts Jazz Festival in the spring of 2022, I remembered playing with him with Byron and Bobby for the Salt Lake City Jazz Society around 2010. The Las Vegas gig lasted 3 days and I was able to reconnect with Corey on a musical and personal level, and knew that he would be a natural for this CD. Peter Chwazik is a bass player who I have played with more and more the past few years and his ability to adapt to any situation from a trio to a large ensemble is something I admired. He has huge ears both on and off the bandstand. I felt really comfortable having him on this record as my right-hand man. He is incredibly supportive in the studio, as well as helping to mix the project afterward. Many thanks to all the musicians for their contributions to the recording!
What are the influences behind the music on the album?
I wanted it to be a rhythm quartet, less horns. In following John Scofield’s trios, as well as Melvin Rhynes organ quartets with Peter Bernstein for years, I thought, this would be a perfect opportunity for me to record a project of that nature with people I knew personally and also loved playing music with. Both drummers Kenny Washington and Bill Stewart have been huge influences for me over the past 25 years. Kenny recorded extensively with Melvin’s organ quartets and Bill with John Scofield. It’s hard not to pay homage to these drummers even though I’m trying not to copy them verbatim. It’s inevitable that some of their vocabulary will creep into my interpretations of a couple of these tunes. Drummer Bill Goodwin was also a big influence musically, as Scofield’s Gray and Visceral [the third track on the album] was recorded only once in 1980 with John, Steve Swallow, and Goodwin on Bill’s record Solar Energy. My original tune Who Do You Have To Know is a nod to Miles Davis’s Freddie Freeloader [from the album Kind of Blue] as I’ve always been partial to that blues with its few altered changes producing a first and second ending on the head. I’ve performed Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World many times w/Byron Stripling in the context of jazz symphony outings and wanted to try my hand at a totally different approach, hence the A sections are in 7/4 and the bridge is set in 6/8 w/an extension harmonically before returning to the last A section in 7/4.
What is your favorite cut on the album?
I guess I like so many of these tracks for their originality and subtle nuances, that this question is the hardest. It’s like asking a parent of 9 children who their favorite son or daughter might be.
What about this new album that make you most proud?
I think that I’m most proud of the way everyone came together to make this music a reality. The musicians, Greg Thompson the engineer, Dave Darlington who mastered it, my wife Janine who kept encouraging me to record it, and all of people who’ve emailed and commented on Facebook about how the music made them feel after hearing it for the first time.
How is the CD being received so far?
Through John Bishop of Origin Records and Lisa Reedy (music publicist extraordinaire), this CD is being heard all across the US, Europe, the Canary Islands, etc. It has been reviewed at Jazz Weekly and AllAboutJazz.com
My hope is that one day, when I’m long gone, someone will hear this CD and comment in a very positive way about how the music made them feel. I think that most musicians want to do something that makes people forget about their everyday struggles, if even for the time that they are listening to our music. Art Blakey said “Music washes the everyday dust of life from one’s feet.”
Where can we get our hands on Who Do You Have to Know?
You can also stream the album at:
Click below to listen the title track Who Do You Have to Know?