First up is a 1964 concert featuring Mr. Thompson's music arranged for octet, a preferred format of his. The orchestrations are unfussy and appealingly lightweight, and most of the enlisted sidemen -- notably the pianist Hank Jones and the baritone saxophonist Cecil Payne -- make robust solo statements. But the real treat is hearing Mr. Thompson caress 'Twas Yesterday, a courtly ballad, and then barrel through Firebug, a jaunty blues bracketed by Latin-jazz fanfare. No less rewarding is The World Awakes, on which he trades his soft-burred tenor for a pristine soprano.
That tune, a sort of theme song, resurfaces in a 1965 radio broadcast from the Half Note. But here, with a quartet, Mr. Thompson stretches out. On a pair of upbeat standards he practically glides with his tenor, bubbling with ideas; his soprano playing, especially in ballad mode, is radiant. And his banter with the radio host Alan Grant reveals glimpses of character: he's courteous but sober, pained at the state of the world. -- Nate Chinen, NY Times, 3/25/09