2012 / Tickled Ivory Music
Review by Michael Debbage
It has been over five years since Jennifer Thomas released her thoroughly impressive solo debut Key of Sea. Thomas also collaborated with Carolyn Southworth on The Lullaby Album in 2009, and though not a solo effort, the impressive streak continued. Which brings us to her latest solo creation Illumination, and the streak has come to an end which has now been upgraded to outrageous. Words that come to mind are big, bold and beautiful which still do not effectively describe the very outspoken musical escapade that will send your heart racing and your spirit soaring. If you loved her solo debut, then the twin barrels of World and Classical elements with a cutting edge of freshness found on Illumination will set your musical soul on fire.
While the music is the pivotal point, Thomas’s album illuminates a single day from the first ray of light of an unspoiled silent dawn until the named stars take over as host of our Creator’s canopy, gently borrowing from the theme of Psalm 19. Musically clocking in at over 72 minutes, the album has a total of seventeen tracks with nearly all the orchestration and arrangements left in the creative hands and musical mind of pianist and violinist Jennifer Thomas. She seeks some additional assistance from Glen Gabriel, largely in the percussion arena and his touch is by no means passive. Clear evidence can be found immediately on the opening track “Etude For The Dreamer” as well as the massive title track. Find a room, close the door, or take a drive in your car and make sure you crank the volume up! Illumination is clearly not a meditative album but one that is certainly passionate.
By track five, we are in complete expressive overdrive with the percussion driven “New Life” followed up by the heart-tugging “Beyond The Summit”, dedicated to Thomas’s husband. The waves of emotion continue to surge courtesy of the World themes found on “Into The Forest”, expounded by the wordless evocative vocals of Felicia Farerre, the return of the pulsating percussion, exotic string arrangements and even a didgeridoo. Then Thomas does a complete 360 degree turn and goes for the commercial jugular via a thoroughly moving rendition of the huge One Republic hit “Secrets”, integrating it seamlessly with Johann Sebastian Bach’s theme “Cello Suite In G Minor”. Simply brilliant and it continues wave after wave with Thomas giving us a complete piano workout on “Firedance” which generously borrows from Ernesto Lecuona’s “Asturias”. Fans of William Joseph will be familiar with this track that recently completed his own rendition with Jesse Cook a few years ago, though Jennifer’s rendition is equally as inspiring.
After eight consecutive tracks of overdrive, Thomas tapers back on the passion and gives you the listener an emotional reprieve for a few tracks. Nevertheless, Thomas does not hesitate to take us out in grand style courtesy of the slow and purposeful crescendo found on “New World Symphony” that includes the harp, uilleann pipes, Thomas on violin and finally an orchestra bigger than a grand Fourth of July fireworks display.
Illumination has been in the making for over four years and the blood, sweat and tears of Jennifer Thomas are plain to see, all the way from the delightful musical voyage to the detail in the artwork. So go ahead and “judge this book by its cover”, as the visual delight matches the bold and beautiful musical journey you are about to embark on. Plain and simple, Thomas has the golden touch, or better yet the “Thomidas” touch, so much so that Illumination is crying big record label deal. And if not a major label deal then let’s label it right now in the middle of June as potential Album of The Year. It is nothing short of being breathtakingly brilliant!
June 16, 2012
with Carolyn Southworth
Review by Kathy Parsons