Micah Thomas | “Reveal”
Pianist Micah Thomas Releases Reveal,
His Third Album as a Leader
Featuring Bassist Dean Torrey and
Drummer Kayvon Gordon
Thomas, a Member of the Immanuel Wilkins Quartet, has Worked with Ambrose Akinmusire, Lage Lund,
Billy Drummond, Zoh Amba and More
“Micah Thomas, an energetic and ambidextrous pianist known for his work in the saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins’s quartet, was bound to make a big statement of his own. Still, the pianist’s third LP arrives with characteristic modesty: an acoustic trio record on which he often turns up the action without raising the volume. Actually, when the rhythm section (Dean Torrey on bass and Kayvon Gordon on drums) escalates, Thomas seems most inclined to pull back.”
“I am already tagging him as one who has a unique style as well as all the tools needed to make a major contribution to the world of jazz piano.”
— Fred Hersch
Thomas Performs Two Sets at Winter Jazzfest on Friday, January 12: With His Original Trio at 7:15pm at Zinc Bar and with Immanuel Wilkins Quartet at 9:45pm at City Winery
Thomas Performs at Mezzrow on February 7
The young pianist Micah Thomas was revealed to an international audience in 2020 with the release of his trio album Tide, his first recording as a leader, and with Omega by saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins quartet, which Thomas has been a part of since 2017. It seemed that Thomas had no time to lose.
His release of his new opus, Reveal, confirms not only his exceptional instrumental talents but he also draws on the history of modern jazz to nourish his innovative and powerfully organic conceptions of the age-old “piano-bass-drums” formula. Thomas is already standing out in a new generation of American jazz musicians determined to conjugate the tradition in a subjective present.
Born in Columbus, Ohio, 1997 into a family of different cultures – an American mother and Indian father – Thomas first took a seat at a keyboard when he was 2. Thomas quickly discovered he had a taste for jazz played by the likes of Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk.
In high school he was noticed by the violinist Christian Howes, whose reputation was second to none, and Thomas began playing concerts with him, finally (at the age of 18) joining Howes and the teaching staff of the Creative Strings Workshop. Losing no momentum, he obtained a prestigious Jerome L. Greene scholarship to attend the Juilliard School, although he continued to play concerts in his native Ohio – notably alongside Joshua Redman and John Clayton, in the 2017 concert series that Byron Stripling’s Columbus Jazz Orchestra gave to celebrate the institution’s 45th anniversary.
The young local star saw his horizons widening considerably. He dived into the effervescence of the very demanding jazz scene in New York, and quickly drew the attention of his peers (and his elders) with the clarity and creativity of his style, as flamboyant as it was elegant… it was an aesthetic that proposed a syncretic, very contemporary vision of the tradition envisaged in all its forms.
Thomas’ musicality flourished, and he passed from the resolutely hard bop vein on veteran drummer Billy Drummond’s 2022 album Valse Sinistre to the more sophisticated, modernist spheres of trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, bassist Harish Raghavan, or Norwegian guitarist Lage Lund — above all, from that moment, Thomas would multiply his collaborations with an increasing number of talents from his own generation, many of whom he first met while at Juilliard.
As a regular member of the quartet led by alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins – with which he recently recorded two major Blue Note albums (Omega in 2020, and The 7th Hand in 2022) – but also partnering with trumpeter Giveton Gelin’s 2020 release True Design, or again with tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III (In Common 2), Thomas has not remained content to preserve a post-bop aesthetic that brings the Blue Note heritage brilliantly up to date: Thomas has been more than willing to venture into more wide-open contexts that belong to other traditions, as proven by his active, inspired contributions to the two albums Bhakti and O, Sun released by the young avant-garde saxophonist Zoh Amba.
It is precisely that open-minded attitude, and Thomas’ ability to appreciate the entire heritage of modern jazz and create its synthesis in a language so continuously personal and inventive, that we can find in a condensed form today inside Reveal, the young pianist’s third album as a leader. Together with bassist Dean Torrey and drummer Kayvon Gordon, his partners from his regular trio – and after his highly skilled incursion into music for solo piano for the label LP345-Records (his aptly titled Piano Solo received France’s “Grand Prix du Disque de l’Académie Charles Cros” in 2022) – today Thomas has picked up where his first record Tide left off, and he has done so with a blend of authority, naturalness and daring that is impressive for his age. Reveal is a sort of aesthetic manifesto that definitively lays down the bases for an “art of the trio” that is eminently singular and innovative.
Putting into practice an orchestral and decidedly collective conception of the trio formula founded on a generalized interactivity, the three musicians have here developed music that is at once astonishingly compact in its textures and in its polyrhythms – they fit precisely together in fluid gestures, as if this intense concentration of energies was generating inner spaces into which the clear, magnificently articulated, intelligently discontinuous song of the piano can dive with a sparkling virtuosity.
This is music that belongs to the lyrical, abstract tradition of piano jazz, a history dating back via Chick Corea to Thelonious Monk (“Troubled Mind” is a marvelous demonstration of it, one which updates those intuitions that Corea exposed in 1968 with “Now He Sings, Now He Sobs,” in the company of Miroslav Vitous and Roy Haynes). And at the same time, from one piece to another, it allows a glimpse of the more or less subliminal influences that have been handed down by great masters of modernity from Paul Bley to Brad Mehldau.
In this foundational record whose mastery of form is total, Thomas has allowed himself all kinds of daring without ever foundering into any kind of mannerism, and he even concludes his album – a form of apotheosis – with the hallucinatory, repetitive motifs of “Denardirn,” a subtly experimental piece that truly opens up new horizons for us.
photo by Antoine Jaussaud
Micah Thomas · Reveal
Artwork Records · Release Date: September 8, 2023
Also recently released on Artwork Records:
Sullivan Fortner · Solo Game
Release Date: November 17, 2023
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