This is the album release concert for Brooklyn-based clarinetist, saxophonist, and composer, Ken Thomson’s latest project, Sextet, out on New Focus Recordings’ Panoramic imprint on September 7. Thomson is a staple within NYC’s contemporary music and jazz communities, known for his playing with the Bang on a Can All-Stars, and composing and playing with the bands Slow/Fast and Gutbucket. He has written music for the JACK Quartet, Ashley Bathgate, American Composers Orchestra, and others. Thomson is known for a unique voice that blends a variety of styles, with the Chicago Reader exclaiming that “few musicians travel as assuredly and meaningfully between jazz and new music as saxophonist Ken Thomson.” Guided by a desire to create music in which composition and improvisation are equally important and codependent, this project is the latest in a series of recordings the composer has made unifying these traditions. Most clearly indicating Thomson’s creative road to Sextet are the two albums with his cross-genre ensemble Slow/Fast. The most recent of these, Settle, was praised by the New York Times for its “intricate long-form compositions,” and garnered a five-star review in All About Jazz.
For Sextet, The Bang on a Can All-Star reedist expands his ensemble to include alto and tenor saxophones (Thomson and Anna Webber), trumpet (Russ Johnson) and trombone (Alan Ferber, and in this performance, Nick Finzer), and dropped the chordal instrument, leaving bass (Adam Armstrong) and drums (Daniel Dor). With four horns, the palette is bigger, broader, and more dynamic. Ken Thomson is a staple of New York City’s contemporary music and jazz communities, and is widely regarded for his ability to blend a rich variety of influences and styles into his own musical language while maintaining a voice unmistakably his own. Embracing the combination of complexity in harmony, rhythm, and form while adding a punk-rock aesthetic, Thomson has carved out a unique corner in today’s multifaceted musical world.