When digging on an artist of two or more disciplines, you have to wonder which one dominates in that artist's heart and head. Dawn Thomson plays it slick and sweet on the guitar. The music soars. It positively floats. But a coupla clicks north and you'll hear her voice.
Now, it's not the bop or rebop you'd expect to come out. It's more of a songwriter's take on melody, in which the words carry their own weight equally. Thomson's voice seems devoid of any overt influence. It's as beautiful and impactful as it is thoughtful.
Thomson cites songwriters such as Joni Mitchell as inspiration, but has also been attracted to older jazz. "I loved Billie Holiday -- she kind of drew me in," Thomson says. "And then when I started getting more serious with guitar at college, I started getting serious about all the guitar players, and listening to the whole history and lineage of jazz guitar."
Amid all this guitar infatuation, Thomson was singing, too. Since her early teens, singing has been key to her self-expression. The Rochester-based musician was born in Nebraska and grew up in Montreal. Her parents weren't musicians, but they had an avid appreciation, frequently listening to music at home.
The musical torch was really lit by Thomson's older sister, who was a jazz musician and composer, concentrating on piano and flute. It wasn't long before Thomson acquired a taste for the stage and, as a teenager, began performing with her sister in cities like Toronto and Montreal.
Thomson and her husband, saxophonist and Jazz Fest capo dei capi John Nugent, moved to NYC in 1993 where she started playing more gigs, meeting other musicians, and touring extensively. She says taking the stage with Nugent is something that shines bright despite their disparate modes of operation. Thomson explains why it works.
"Well, we have a lot of respect between us," she says. "We have always enjoyed playing with each other actually. But we are different in the way we approach music. I'm kind of at it all the time. John is a very gifted musician, he practices in his head a lot of the time."
Thomson has six albums to her credit. She is currently touring as a supporting band member for drummer Matt Wilson's "Honey and Salt." And though Thomson loves the challenges and freedom this outfit affords, she's got her eyes fixed on the horizon, honing her band leader licks and chops.
"It just feels so great to play with that band," she says. "It feels like you can take chances, walk that edge, and still be comfortable. I like playing with other musicians, but I also like the idea of just me and the guitar."