Barbara Thompson’s Paraphernalia with NYJO: Bulletproof review – fresh takes on old favourites

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<span>Photograph: Martyn Goddard/REX/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: Martyn Goddard/REX/Shutterstock

Barbara Thompson, saxophonist, flautist, composer and one of Europe’s finest and certainly most popular jazz musicians, led her band, Paraphernalia, between 1978 and 2015. Now aged 76, she has been forced to stop performing by Parkinson’s disease. For this captivating album she assembled three former members of Paraphernalia, plus most of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra (Nyjo), to play 10 of her favourite compositions, freshly arranged. The young musicians take to them all with what sounds like easy familiarity – including the title number, which is 10 minutes of unrelenting pressure. It’s fascinating to hear improvised solos from two of the veterans, Peter Lemer on keyboards and Billy Thompson (no relation) on violin, beside Nyjo’s Tom Ridout on tenor saxophone and Luke Vice-Coles on trumpet. All four come up with surprising ideas that light up the whole piece, and there’s certainly no sign of the difference in age. The music here is typically wide-ranging, from the catchy Sax Rap to Ode to Sappho, based on a fragment of ancient Greek music, but it’s all unmistakably Thompson, and true originality such as hers doesn’t date.

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