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Ron Thomas Trio: “Doloroso”

(Art of Life AL1021-2)

Discography | Digital Downloads | About the Music | Liner Notes | Selected Quotations

Ron Thomas Trio: "Doloroso"

Ron Thomas: piano
Tony Marino: acoustic bass
Joe Mullen: drums

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Ars Poetica
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Two Five One
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Other Music
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No Straight Lines
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De Profundis
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Digital Downloads {top}

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About the Music {top}

Following in the footsteps of their previous Art of Life Records release, "Music In Three Parts" AL1010-2, "Doloroso" was recorded in May of 2005 and features Tony Marino on bass and Joe Mullen on drums. The concept utilized throughout "Doloroso" is based upon improvising freely (no specific chords and measures) within the loose framework of a pre-determined genre-piece such as a "ballad", "Latin piece in three", "Jazz-like swing piece", "Latin piece in four" and a "Meter-less piece" etc. This is the difference between Ron's previous work for Art of Life Records, "Music In Three Parts", which was based on three chordal-rhythmic ostinato patterns. The two projects are similar in that for both "Music In Three Parts" and "Doloroso", strictly executed specific formal limitation provides and opens the way for very intense and uninhibited expressive free improvising. The strategies used for both of these recordings releases them from "playing form" as they normally do on songs, standards and composed Jazz pieces. All tracks have been professionally mastered using 24-bit digital technology.

Ron Thomas (b.1942) has a long association with the experimental musical tradition both as a Classical Composer and as a Jazz musician. His musical interests were nurtured by his mother Helen and his father "Buddy", a gifted amateur pianist and entertainer. Ron was attracted to both the Classical Music and the Jazz that he heard growing up at home and eventually became a Classical Composer and a Jazz pianist. He has a Master's degree in Composition and has enjoyed the friendship and counsel of such well-known musicians as John Cage and Herbie Hancock. In 1972 Ron recorded with guitarist Pat Martino, ("Live!", now reissued as "Head and Heart") and with saxophonist Eric Kloss ("One, Two, Free"). Ron is admired for his lyrical and well crafted Jazz playing and his impressive catalog of classical works. Three previous sessions as a leader on the Vectordisk label are also available, "Scenes from a Voyage to Arcturus", "The House of Counted Days" and "17 Solo Piano Improvisations".

Bassist Tony Marino originally studied guitar at an early age switching to acoustic and electric bass during high school so that he might participate in the music curriculum. He began his musical career as the house bass player at clubs and resorts in the Pocono and Catskill Mountains providing back-up to a myriad of well-known entertainers. Marino has accompanied such greats as the late Al Cohn & Zoot Sims, Mose Allison, Phil Woods, Urbie Green and John Coates Jr. among others. His talents have been heard on recordings with drummer Bill Goodwin's group Solar Energy and also with saxophonist George Young's group Low Profile. He performs regularly with Broadway star Betty Buckley and jazz pianist Kenny Werner as well as performing, recording and touring internationally with the Dave Liebman Group. Marino is well known for his versatility and wide range of musicality as he's accompanied and recorded with numerous artists from folk to pop.

Joe Mullen has performed with Stanley Clarke, Gerry Mulligan, Red Rodney, Gerry Niewood and Manny Album; most recently he has been directing extended free improvisation recording sessions with Ron at Glenn Ferracone's Music Centre recording studio; he appears on Ron Thomas' "The House of Counted Days", Peter Paulsen's "Three-Stranded Cord" and Terry Klinefelter's "Simple Gifts". He was collaborator and percussionist for many years with Philadelphia guitarist-composer Steve Giordano. Joe is co-founder and co-leader of Drumsquared along with composer/percussionist Robert Brosh.

For more information about Ron Thomas, his music and his teaching activities, please visit

Liner Notes {top}

In the world of music makers, no one sounds like Ron Thomas. And in this world every practitioner desires that kind of singularity. My consolation when I hear a dozen other piano improvisers is that ten sound alike. My consolation when I hear Ron is that he's my close friend and mentor. "Just think," I ask myself, "couldn't I too, if I study this music enough, have the same kind of musically inventive power, and couldn't I perhaps apply it as tastefully?" Most days I think not, particularly when I hear the three craftsmen on this recording. There is always (and Ron is the first to tell me this) hope. I consider this recording a celebration of that hope, that we may continue to delight in all the laws of musical nature and to construct, arrange and re-arrange sounds to the delight of Him who first did all the ordering.

A good degree of accomplished musical skills, knowledge and restraint determines the impact of the collective improvising we hear on "Doloroso". When we hear this music we get that same feeling of beautifully ordered sounds, arranged just right, as when we hear other successful expressions such as Miles Davis' "On the Corner", Ives' "Third Symphony", Webern's "Das Augenlicht Op. 26", to name but a few. As Stravinsky embodied the sound of the 20th century, so Ron points the way to the 21st, inviting only the hippest to catch a clue as to where new music can go.

Matthew Monticchio

Joe Mullen lured me back into the recording studio in 1999; huge thanks Joe, for the many good results regularly enjoyed since. No amount of praise is adequate for the imaginative musicianship of bassist Tony Marino evident everywhere in these pieces. Their two thirds of this trio are my favorite parts of it.

Ron Thomas

Selected Quotations {top}

Ron Thomas took a few years off since his last CD release, the excellent "House of Counted Days" (2002). But just this year, the pianist, a commsumate musical artist, has offered up two stellar piano trio outings, "Music in Three Parts" and "Doloroso".

Thomas employs similar limitations for both of these sets. In the case of "Music in Three Parts", it's a boundary of three chordal rhythmic patterns; with "Doloroso", he sets perhaps a looser structure. The resulting sounds have an alluring beauty and surface simplicity, underlain by a remarkable richness and depth, something only a trio of well-schooled musicians, intensely commited to their art, can produce.

Thomas, born in 1942, has immersed himself in the worlds of jazz, classical and improvisation. The seven tunes on "Doloroso" are freely improvised inside the loose boundaries of pre-determined genre and context: Latin in three, jazz-like swing, meterless, etc. The resultant music has a free feeling that flows through a seat-of-the-pants rhythmic structure, a sound that is by turns intense or gentle, propulsive or ethereal, and unfailingly melodically approachable, as gorgeously riveting a listening experience as any you'll hear from any of the music makers you let into your listening life.

The opening title tune, Doloroso (Spanish for painful), looks inward, with a feeling of loss brought out by the telepathic trio interplay among Thomas, bassist Tony Marino and drummer Joe Mullen, while Ars Poetica drives forward insistently with an uptempo momentum locked into a flexible, danceable groove. Other Music, an introspective ballad, has a very classical feeling, and no Straight Line features an agitated and interestingly prickly bass/drum duo section.

This is top-level piano trio music. The Ron Thomas Trio is right there with the big names Keith Jarrett, Brad Mehldau, Fred Hersch making as vibrant, organic and modern-leaning music as you'll hear.
Dan McClenaghan - All About Jazz

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