Frog and Toad's Dixie Quartet

Apr 18 2014 - 07:00 PM

Frog and Toad

Frog and Toad’s Biography:
Jason Randolph Thompson is a third generation jazz musician from Peekskill, NY.  He began his professional saxophone career in 1996 when he gave up a scholarship to the University of Tennessee and started a six year stint on the road with Knoxville-based, nine member rock/soul group Gran Torino. The group toured nationally, made several recordings, and enjoyed some college radio success before disbanding.  Thompson then returned to the UTK  to study jazz.  He had the privilege of studying under many great professors including Jerry Coker and Donald Brown.  He completed his undergraduate degree in 2004 and has been studying on his own and playing local gigs ever since.  Thompson’s choice of the baritone saxophone as his main voice puts him in a smaller circle of the saxophone family, but it’s his bass saxophone playing that makes him truly unique.
            His latest group Frog & Toad’s Dixie Quartet is the first of his groups to feature his original material and their first album “Debut” was recorded in Knoxville in June 2012.  It highlights Thompson’s skill and dexterity as a composer, arranger, and performer while, at the same time, allowing the other members of the quartet ample time in the spotlight. “Debut” is a set of light-hearted character sketches that represent the broad range of musical influences that direct Thompson’s style.  From a sultry Piazzolla-like tango to a “Drunk Pirate’s Waltz”, and even a nod to Yakety Sax, the album is diverse yet cohesive.  The key to their cohesiveness is that their instrumentation is their sound.  The lineup of bass/baritone saxophone, piano, guitar, and drums leaves a hole where the bass player should be.  In this ensemble, the role of bassist is filled by pianist Jason Day’s left hand and Thompson’s bass/bari sax.  This gives the group a very distinct overall sound quality as well as seemingly endless flexibility in dynamics and style.  Another prominent feature of the group is the melodic interplay between Chad Volkers’ guitar and Thompson’s saxes.  They weave complex polyphony, blend seamlessly and spar valiantly just as one would expect from two friends that have performed together for over a decade.  Alonzo Lewis’ swinging drum set rounds out the quartet.
            Thompson is a high-energy, blues-based performer with an affinity for the dramatic and daring side of jazz.   He often takes off into swirling, free-jazz riffs, bombastic squeals or Hendrix-like feedback with a touch of didgeridoo.  His employment of these tactics heighten the drama and sets the listener up for an even greater sense of tension and resolution.  His writing and playing are both natural and organic and a greater sense of honesty and genuineness are evident in his performance.
            Frog and Toad’s Dixie Quartet is the house band at the Crown & Goose in Knoxville, TN’s Old City.  They perform a dinner set every Wednesday from 6:30-9:30 in the main dining room and next door on Fridays at the Underground from 9-12.  It’s family friendly, the menu and staff are outstanding, and there’s no cover charge.  The swing is vintage and authentic.  You’ll leave smiling.

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