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Ron Thomas + Paul Klinefelter: “Blues for Zarathustra”

(Art of Life AL1032-2)

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

Ron Thomas + Paul Klinefelter: "Blues for Zarathustra"

Ron Thomas: piano
Paul Klinefelter: acoustic bass

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Gentle Rain
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Time Remembered
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Yardbird Suite
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You Must Believe in Spring
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Young and Foolish
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I Thought About You
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Blues for Zarathustra
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Digital Downloads {top}

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About the Music {top}

Following his two previous Trio releases on Art of Life Records, "Music In Three Parts" (AL1010-2) and "Doloroso" (AL1021-2), "Blues for Zarathustra" finds pianist Ron Thomas in a duo setting with acoustic bassist Paul Klinefelter performing six Jazz standards and one original composition. Ron and Paul perform the songs "Gentle Rain" (Luiz Bonfa), "Time Remembered" (Bill Evans), "Yardbird Suite" (Charlie Parker), "You Must Believe in Spring" (Legrand, Demy & Bergman), "Young and Foolish" (Horwitt & Hague), "I Thought About You" (Van Heusen & Mercer) and the Ron Thomas composition "Blues for Zarathustra". "Blues for Zarathustra" was recorded and mixed by Chris Gately and Rick Hall at Rick Hall's Studio in Bala, Pennsylvania on November 6, 2002. 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.

Paul Klinefelter and Ron Thomas have been performing and recording in diverse musical situations since 1980. Paul was voted Philadelphia's Best Jazz Bassist in 1982 (WRTI 90.1 F.M.). He has performed at the San Jose Jazz Festival, the Berks Jazzfest and has been a clinician at the Berklee College of Music. He is a noted Blues player and has been a member of the Harrisburg Symphony since 1989. He has been featured on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross and is currently on the faculty of Rowan University and the Community College of Philadelphia.

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

Liner Notes {top}

Friendships are built on mutual respect and the trust that stems from that respect. Musical friendships are no different. Ron Thomas and I have been friends and musical partners since 1982. Since that time we have developed a way of playing together that incorporates the many and varied influences that we each bring to Jazz. We respect each others abilities and share the philosophy that Jazz is an improviser's art, constantly expanding and changing as every player brings new vocabulary and expressions to the language. But we trust each other to be mindful of the heritage of the music so that our explorations will remain in context. On this CD is a selection of tunes from our repertoire that we have played for many years. They have changed much since we began playing them and will likely continue to develop as we continue to play them. Rather than getting bored with a composition, the more familiar with it we become the more we see the deeper possibilities within it. It is our hope that you, the listener, will enjoy this odyssey as much as Ron and I have.... and still do.

Paul Klinefelter

Selected Quotations {top}

Nothing against piano trios or drummers, but eliminating the latter can result in a far more elegant and interesting musical conversation. Part of the reason may be that in this trimmed-down setting the bass is freed up to be the piano's equal partner. Two instrumentalists allow for subtleties of tone and coloration to shine through. Pianist Ron Thomas and bassist Paul Klinefelter come together as one for extended explorations with "Blues for Zarathustra". Thomas and Klinefelter meld for an experience that envelops the listener. Thomas has had a unique career that includes studies with groundbreaking composers Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage. Cage was fond of quoting the Zen saying, "If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four minutes. If it's still boring, try it for eight, sixteen, thirty-two and so on. Eventually one discovers it's not boring at all." Thomas, whose style here is beautifully organic and reminiscent of pianist Bill Evans, has certainly heeded Cage's advice. It is very apparent that he and his bassist partner have explored this program of well-known tunes in a way that has allowed them to break through their melodic wall. The result is nothing short of brilliant. Evans' own "Time Remembered" is a lovely pastiche, Luiz Bonfa's "Gentle Rain" engages in ways it never has and Charlie Parker's "Yardbird Suite" is likewise fresh and enticing. Klinefelter uses the full range of his bass and as such is an integral part of the sound. The CD closer and title cut is an elegant bluesy hand-in-hand walk that begs for more and ends one of the nicest surprise releases of last year.
Elliott Simon - All About Jazz

With "Blues For Zarathustra", pianist Ron Thomas returns to an area of interest that has always been a part of his musical life, but which has not be emphasized or recorded recently. What he presents, with his long time playing partner, bassist Paul Klinefelter, is a straight-ahead set where simplicity, delicate intensity, constant interplay and a fertile imagination rule.

Those who have followed Thomas' output, including his solo works, 17 Solo Improvisation (Vectordisc, 2006) and Wings of the Morning (Vectordisc, 2007), and trios Doloroso (Art of Life, 2006) and Music in Three Parts (Art of Life, 2006), will recognize Thomas' touch and use of pedal. However, while his intellectual side, which informed the music on the other recordings, has been submerged, his love of melody and harmony as used in the more standard manner now comes to the fore.

Of course, Thomas' music has always represented his eclectic tastes and Zarathustra, while easily wearing the straight-ahead label, is hardly a normal session. The tunes chosen, besides the original title tune, are not commonplace standards and their treatment is far from the typical "playing variations on the changes".

Thomas and Klinefelter make an extremely tight duo, knowing each other so well that their reactions, the push and pull of the two independent voices, sound completely natural. Closer listening will uncover the seamless changing of roles as Klinefelter, playing the natural supporting role, will, in the course of things, inject a phrase fragment that is instantly picked up by Thomas. Conversely, Klinefelter will just as quickly respond to something Thomas has played.

Since the balance constantly shifts between the two players, the amount of melodic detail presented is enormous. When combined with the rhythmic subtleties that are continually mutating, the effect becomes one of being surrounded by the music as it flows.

Knowing the tunes enhances the pleasure of this recording, since it's possible to observe how the distance between the core melody and the improvisation changes. Thomas and Klinefelter communicate their deepest feelings, playing for and to each other. These are tunes they have played for many years, and have changed over time. Says Klinefelter, "Rather than getting bored with a composition, the more familiar with it we become the more we see the deeper possibilities within it."

Thomas acknowledges the deep influence of Bill Evans in his musical thought and playing. The fact that the above description could be said of any number of Evans' trios is not coincidence, and is meant to be the highest tribute.

While "Blues for Zarathustra" can be heard as homage to Evan's legacy, that does not diminish its achievement. The longest track, "I Thought About You", easily bears repeated listens, exposing new features each time. This is the magic of Klinefelter and Thomas.
Budd Kopman - All About Jazz

Pianist Ron Thomas and bassist Paul Klinefelter had worked together for two decades by the time of this 2002 duo session, which shows in the music they produce throughout the date. While it may be a bit of a cliche to say that Thomas's playing style is descended in part from that of the late Bill Evans, his lyricism and long, thoughtful lines in the ballads like Evans' "Time Remembered" are unmistakable. Together with Klinefelter, the duo has the kind of musical E.S.P. that is somewhat rare in jazz, whoever is accompanying the other player always anticipates just where he is going. The intricate improvisation leading into Charlie Parker's "Yardbird Suite" is a treat, while the breezy samba setting of "Young and Foolish" nicely freshens an old chestnut. The pianist's deliberate "Blues For Zarathustra" leave the listener wanting more. Recommended.
Ken Dryden - All Music Guide

The music is emphatically post-Evans, with Klinefelter playing an active notey role as per the style. They have been playing these particular tunes since way back, so the notes say. It shows. Sometimes, as in "Yardbird Suite", they don't seem to bother with the head, and just dive into the improvisations, getting deeply inside the structure of the tune. Semi-lush chords, many blocked, an actively flowing line spinning (sometimes in the Bop mode) and some rhythmic displacements characterize Thomas' playing and he is good at it. "Blues for Zarathustra" finds Thomas and Klinefelter leaving the high point for last. They take the tempo at a crawl, modulate extensively until settling on a key center, and give one the spooky after hours feel of four a.m, at an empty club. It is very reflective, with great use of space, great voicings. Well done. For Evans' fans, this will give you something new and beyond to listen to. There's no doubt these two can deliver musically. And they do here.
Grego Applegate Edwards - Cadence Magazine

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