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Friday, January 15, 2016

CD Review: Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia – The Last Fandango

Barbara Thompson – saxophone; Jon Hiseman – drums; Peter Lemer – keyboards; Billy Thompson – violin; Dave “Taif” Ball – Bass. + Shona Brown – Flute; Apollo Saxophone Quartet and Rachel Calaminus – violin and viola.
(Review by Hugh C.)
As regular listeners to Jazz Record Requests on BBC Radio 3 may have heard, one of my first introductions to jazz in my student years was Barbara Thompson and Paraphernalia.  I was delighted to find, then, that a new album has just been released.
Jazz lovers may be aware that Barbara Thompson was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 1997.  She announced the first of several “farewell” tours in 2001.  Every three years or so as her condition deteriorated she thought she would not be able to go on, but with the continuing help of new medications and her dedicated team of carers she somehow continued writing and playing. 
The Last Fandango has been some ten years in the making and was recorded and mixed in Spring/Summer 2014 at Temple Music Studio.  The name (derived from the title of the fourth track) hints at the reality that this CD release may be last from Barbara Thompson as no real fix is in sight for her Parkinson's disease.
The CD comes in at just under 60 minutes and is vintage Paraphernalia and Barbara Thompson.  The line-up on the CD is the same as that on the Live'05 DVD - which was received to much acclaim.  Straitlaced and The Magic Carpet both have a Middle-Eastern quality with Barbara's signature saxophone style to the fore in the first track.  Jon Hiseman and Dave Ball provide a rhythmic introduction on the second track.  The agile violin playing of Billy Thompson (no relation) weaves through the whole album.  Bulletproof follows and is driven by Hiseman's rhythmic powerhouse, aided and abetted by Lemer on piano.  The track has a filmic quality and brings to mind the kind of vintage cop shows that can be viewed on selected TV channels.  The Last Fandango does what it says on the tin. 
Saxey demonstrates the versatile talents of the Apollo Saxophone Quartet – long-time collaborators with Barbara Thompson.  One for the Road features the flute playing of Shona Brown, together with a fine bass riff by Dave Ball against Billy Thompson's violin.  Spring Fever brings some Caribbean sunshine with an up-tempo dance rhythm (roll on Spring!).  The Smooch slows it down again – as might be expected.  Satsuma is a tasty little number, composed by Peter Lemer – all other compositions are by Barbara Thompson (Peter joined Barbara Thompson in the composition of Saxey) - and freshens the musical palate before the dessert.  The anthemic track The Unseen Way provides a fitting finale to the whole.  The CD insert features a gallery of individual and band photographs over the years.
As Jon Heisman says “there is sadly no prospect of a tour to promote the album, we are relying on word of mouth to help spread the word”.  The only way you will hear this music is to buy the CD!
The Last Fandango is available now from Temple Music (http://www.temple-music.com/new-album-from-barbara-thompsons-paraphernalia/ ) for the very reasonable price of £10.99 plus delivery.
Hugh

2 comments :

Jude Murphy (on F/b) said...

So exciting! Great to see she's still playing

Rachel said...

Looking forward to hearing the CD. Great review btw

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