Three or One (ECM)

“Three or One” is out now on ECM Records New Series.


Here is Johann Sebastian Bach in transfigured light: with organ chorale preludes, vocal cantata movements and orchestral sinfonias – 24 pieces in all – transcribed for trio and solo piano by Fred Thomas, and threaded into a compelling new sequence by Manfred Eicher.

On Three Or One, Bach’s idiom is respectfully explored by three innovative players, a process Thomas describes as “quietly joyful,” and the trio pieces, primarily drawn from Bach’s Orgelbüchlein, acquire a fresh character in the hands of Kazakh violinist Aisha Orazbayeva and British cellist Lucy Railton, musicians more often associated with contemporary composition’s cutting edge.

Fred Thomas, who makes his ECM New Series debut here, has always worked across contexts and genres, and considers the trio’s wide-ranging experience “an incitement to creativity. Bach often re-used his own material and it is no surprise it came out differently each time. With his imaginative, technical and improvisatory powers, do we really believe that Bach would play the same thing the same way twice?” It’s a good question, and the key to the approach taken on Three Or One.



J.S. Bach

Fred Thomas – piano and transcriptions

Aisha Orazbayeva – violin

Lucy Railton – cello








Recorded 2012/2018

University of Huddersfield,

courtesy of Pierre-Alexandre Tremblay

Engineers: Alex Bonney, Pierre-Alexandre Tremblay and Rob Sutherland (trios),

Elliott Parkin (solos)

Recording producer: Fred Thomas

Liner Photos: Phelan Burgoyne, Francis Fuego, Scarlett Casciello

Cover Photo: Manos Chatzikonstanzis 

Design: Sascha Kleis

Mastering: Christoph Stickel

Executive Producer: Manfred Eicher


An ECM Production


Transcriptions by Fred Thomas, published and available to buy from Edition Wilhelm Hansen or Music Sales


“A brilliant young trio. With extreme sensitivity to colour and nuance, Fred Thomas has made these organ preludes into tiny character pieces for chamber ensemble” – BBC Music Magazine

“Thomas’ treatment of the Baroque score was modern but respectful. The pieces were full of colour and creativity making full use of the dynamic combination of violin, cello and piano…great concept” – Bachtrack

“A boundary-blurring composer and improviser” – Gramophone Magazine


Fred Thomas is one of London’s most sought after multi-instrumentalists and composer/arranger/producers, known for his breadth of musical styles as well as for specialising in creative re-interpretations of J.S. Bach.

Thomas has collaborated with a huge variety of artists worldwide including Brian Eno, Yo-Yo Ma, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Jordi Savall, Meredith Monk, Jarvis Cocker, Rachel Podger, Elizabeth Kenny, Ethan Iverson, Larry Grenadier, Benoît Delbecq, Kit Downes, Tamara Stefanovich, Abel Salaocoe, Leo Abrahams, Kadialy Kouyate and Olivia Chaney. He has released a large discography of albums across various genres, particularly classical and jazz, and is published by Spartan Press and Edition Wilhelm Hansen.

Having started to play classical piano at the age of five, Thomas went on to study jazz piano and composition at the Royal Academy of Music, where he developed an interest in rhythmic cultures from Africa and Latin America, free improvisation,  contemporary classical, improvised counterpoint and Baroque music, in particular Bach. He works regularly as Musical Director with the National Theatre and Shakespeare’s Globe and teaches at Trinity Laban Conservatoire.

Thomas’s first appearance on ECM Records came in 2020 as pianist/drummer on Elina Duni’s “Lost Ships”, together with Rob Luft and Mathieu Michel. His subsequent ECM album and debut as leader comes on the New Series label with “Three or One”, 24 pieces by Bach transcribed for trio and solo piano by Thomas himself, featuring cellist Lucy Railton and violinist Aisha Orazbayeva, released in October 2021.