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Earma Thompson



When pianist Earma Thompson sidles into "After Hours," the second track on her newly released duo album, it sounds as if the song--a staple of the jazz and blues piano repertoire for six decades, recorded by Oscar Peterson, Pinetop Perkins, and Ray Bryant, among others--was written just for her. Thompson finds a tempo that's devastating in its sly allure; deceptively slow, with a propulsive bounce underscored by veteran Chicago bassist John Whitfield, her rendition gradually opens up to include yearning right-hand finery, a bit of relaxed boogie bass, a blast of rhythmic chording. It's an elegant history of piano blues in under four minutes. As befits an artist of her age, Thompson plays with force but not urgency, distilling a half century of professional performance into each standard on the new Just in Time (The Sirens)--which after all these years is her first recording under her own name. Thompson attended Chicago's famed DuSable High School, where John Young, Dorothy Donegan, and Johnny Hartman were among her schoolmates, a few years behind Nat "King" Cole; in 1943 she married Marshall Thompson, the much-missed Chicago drummer who died in '91, and retired from an active career to raise their son. But she never stopped playing, if only at home and on pickup dates, and like her fellow DuSable alum Von Freeman, Thompson has gained her greatest recognition as a senior citizen, thanks to regular gigs throughout the 90s. A wise and playful pianist and a gracious presence, Thompson celebrates the release of Just in Time with this performance, joined by Whitfield and saxist John Brumbach (who chimes in on two CD tracks). $5. Saturday, July 17, 9 PM, Katerina's, 1920 W. Irving Park; 773-348-7592.

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