Criss Cross Jazz 1418 CD

Michael Thomas

The Illusion Of Choice

Available: March 1, 2024

“This was a dream band to write for and play with,” alto saxophonist Michael Thomas says of Manuel Valera, Matt Brewer and Obed Calvaire, his A-list rhythm section on Illusion of Choice, his Criss Cross debut, and fourth leader album. “These musicians can play any style and sound like it’s the only thing they play. I wanted to explore these different areas and cohere them into an album, not sound like tunes stuck together for a CD. Everything was on the table. I wasn’t afraid to develop whatever ideas I came up with, and see where they went."

Although Illusion of Choice features an assembled-for-the-occasion ensemble rather than the working bands documented on his earlier albums, Michael Thomas, 36, considers it "the strongest thing I’ve done so far.” During the four months preceding the September 2023 recording session, Thomas generated eight originals tailored to the tonal personalities of his protean collaborators. They live up to the leader’s ballyhoo, nailing the shifting meters and intervallic challenges of his high-degree-of-difficulty pieces with panache and creative spirit.

“I try to give people enough to understand and absorb, but not so much as to make them wonder what’s going on,” Thomas says. “Particularly with respect to melodies, I’m trying to write tunes that don’t just sound nice, but facilitate playing and improvising as I want.” He adds that, although he plays multiple reeds and woodwinds, the alto saxophone is his creative home. “Alto is where I feel most comfortable, have the most control of my sound, and can express myself most easily.”

Michael Thomas
Barcode 8 712474 141821
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1. Circles (Michael Thomas)  8:47
2. Hokkeshũ (Michael Thomas)  6:26
3. Information Paradox (Michael Thomas)  6:50
4. The Other Side (Michael Thomas)  4:29
5. Shades Of Green (Michael Thomas)  7:02
6. Mnemosyne (Michael Thomas)  5:41
7. Darkness And Light (Michael Thomas)  7:43
8. The Illusion Of Choice (Michael Thomas)  6:22
9. It Could Happen To You (Jimmy Van Heusen / Johnny Burke)  6:06

Total Time: 59:26
Recorded September 14, 2023 in Astoria, NY, USA
Engineer: Michael Marciano (recording / editing / mixing / mastering)
Producer: Jerry Teekens (executive)

Matt Brewer, Michael Thomas, Obed Calvaire, Manuel Valera

Manuel Valera, Michael Thomas, Obed Calvarire, Matt Brewer

Michael Thomas

Obed Calvaire

Matt Brewer

Manuel Valera