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Odd but charming

By Butch Thompson

Daring Records: 1994

This review first appeared in the November 29, 1994 issue of the North County Blade-Citizen (now North County Times).

Okay, so it's not the usual approach to Christmas music, but Butch Thompson's stride jazz readings of yule classics manage to both cut against the grain and somehow capture the spirit of the holidays.

Thompson's solo piano is in the stride school of James P. Johnson and Willie "The Lion" Smith, toned down for the occasion. He comps lightly with his left hand, leaving the right to lay down the melody, flourishes and improvisation.

The song selection is extensive (17 cuts) and traditional – "Silent Night," "O Little Town of Bethlehem," "Deck the Halls" and "We Three Kings" among others. And for the finale, Bach's "Ave Maria," Thompson veers from stride jazz to a straight rendition haunting in its simplicity and trueness to Bach's score.