The Love Supreme Quartet on DVD
“LSQ, or the Love Supreme Quartet, is a blazing birthday tribute to the legendary John Coltrane filmed in September 2004 at Xandos Coffee Shop in Baltimore. The event was sponsored by the celebrated painters Larry Scott, Don Griffin and their arts collective ComZee International. Seemingly channeling Coltrane, tenor sax virtuoso Greg Thompkins and his hot squad -- Lafayette Gilchrist on piano, Donnie West on bass, and Scott Tiemann on drums -- turn this slice of modern East Baltimore into a 1960s Village Vanguard soiree. With a stationary digi-cam that gives the viewer an avant-garde, fly-on-the-wall POV -- and the various poster-paintings sniped along the venue (most notably the work by Scott, Griffin, Eugene Coles and Jonathan Azor looming over drummer Tiemann's shoulder), LSQ's classic spirit feels retro-futurist. A must-have DVD for any Coltrane aficionado. (For more information, visit www.rolandparkjazz.com, or email Greg Thompkins at email@example.com)”
Roland Park Jazz Greg Thompkins –
THE MOVIE: Think of this DVD from local saxophonist as a digital throwback to 1980s cassette releases. LSQ is a strictly low-tech affair that contains a different world. Thompkins played a John Coltrane tribute Sept.23, 2004, at Xando Coffee and Bar with a performance of 1964’s A Love Supreme featuring pianist Lafayette Gilchrist, drummer Scott Tiemann, and bassist Donnie West. A single camera was set up snugly framing the band in its square viewfinder; audience members walk back and forth across the screen throughout. It’s a little muddy and yellow, the way video looks when lit by nothing but incandescent lights. And the recording itself is a tad rough, probably due to a single microphone catching everything being thrown at it.
But, oh, what it does catch. LSQ isn’t simply a Supreme recreation, it’s more an interpretation of it by four musicians who know it well and love it each in his own way. It’s easy to forget that Coltrane himself was a big man, and he played music that needed a big guy who could push a big amount of wind into a big tenor saxophone. Standing in those shoes is tough, and Thompkins meets the challenge fearlessly, laying into four of the most recognizable notes in all of jazz, those that form the central motif of “Acknowledgement,” with a leveling force. And if he doesn’t hit Coltrane’s solo stratosphere planes on Supreme—which is, honestly, an unfair benchmark—he does deliver a series of muscular, lyrical ideas throughout this set.
Unsurprisingly, LSQ’s star is Gilchrist, who doesn’t so much try to inhabit Coltrane sideman McCoy Tyner as make Tyner’s piano space his own. Gilchrist opens the night with an impassioned, ebullient intro to “Acknowledgement,” and his solos are, as expected, the wittiest, most lively, and floridly moving (another unfair comparison, as the recording quality doesn’t capture the full richness of West’s bass or Tiemann’s drums). Call it heresy if you must, but Tyner’s A game versus Gilchrist’s best is just too close to call, though the idea of that cutting contest thrills the soul.
The evening’s true troopers, though, are West and Tiemann. Not only are their solos poorly served by the recording, they’ve got the hardest roles to fill. The Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones rhythm section of Coltrane’s classic quartet was tight and sympathetic enough to go wherever their leader went. West and Tiemann not only keep pace with, but also anticipate Thompkins’ and Gilchrist’s every adventure with lithe responsiveness.
Hard Jazz - The Jazz Composers Showcase is Sunday, and if you think this music just happens, think again. Review from The Sun/Nick Madigan
Tenor Saxophonist Greg Thompkins leans into the music as if he's searching for something very important and very elusive in the composition he's playing. The new gold-tone neck in his silver sax glitters in the bright light of the room where he's rehearsing the Greg Thompkins Quintet for the first Baltimore Jazz Composers Showcase on Sunday afternoon at the Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center. He's a big guy with a big sound and a gentle manner. On his left, Scott Tiemann, his coolly impassive drummer, listens carefully as he plays. On his right, Brian Kooken, his intense guitar player, is deeply involved with the music. Lafayette Gilchrist, a brilliant young piano player, is out front in one of his trademark caps; Ashton Fletcher, the veteran bass player, is a few steps away, engrossed in the tune. They're playing at Fletcher's house in Rosedale, crammed into what looks to be a family room, except for the instruments all over the place. It's getting on to midnight on a recent Tuesday night, the one time all these professional musicians can get together. They've been rehearsing since 10 p.m. They're working on Phoebe Myhill's composition "Jump in Jack", which she's dedicated to the quintet. She's one of eight composers whose work they will play Sunday. She's tagged as a composer of concert music with a deep interest in jazz.