Thor Polson : The Portal Review
Pianist Thor Polson has a long history of performing in the Twin Cities and has released two leader titles to date, the first album Northern Lights was met with critical praise, and his latest offering The Portal brings together many new friends in the Portland music scene and the best of his former home base in Minnesota. Though a jazz musician to the core, Polson moved to southern Oregon for a three-year course in classical piano with Dr. Alexander Tutunov at Southern Oregon University. The Portal is aptly titled as the collaboration spans two coasts. The album is dedicated to the late Charles Shelby, who was a notable figure in the Twin City music fabric.
Each tune is a personal statement, a journey of beauty and emotion, from the adventurous “Bells,” which features a quartet setting. Polson is joined by Eric Solberg on bass who’s bold, yet woody tone colorizes the underbelly of the tune, with Jeff Keys on flugelhorn, he tackles the melody with grace and reverence. The forward motion is apparent in the hands of Joe Dowdall, whose cymbal work allows the tune to propel. The composition is a collaboration by all, and each player lends compelling dynamism to the tune.
A Polson original “Beyond Pettus Bridge: A Dream Deferred” is a powerful memoir dedicated to all people who suffered and died during the civil rights movement of the ’50s, ’60s, and beyond. Its edict is driven by Polson’s rapid-fire solo and punctuation on piano. A dueling exchange between Keith Nance on tenor sax and Jeff Keys this time on trumpet adds a fiery fervor to the tune. This time Darrell Pridgen lends his electric bass to the proceedings and locks tightly with drummer Joe Dowdall who anchors the ensemble in a deep swing.
Each tune on The Portal is a worthy listen, as each has its own sui generis quality. The blending of coasts and players still offers a cohesiveness of execution, and each tune is given its due and proper treatment. All of the songs were written by Polson with the exception of “Bells,” and the standard “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise.” Each compliment in a compelling value.
January 10, 2020