Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Jonathan Finlayson and Sicilian Defense: Moment and the Message (Pi Recordings, 2013)

This was a complex and interesting album where the band's name was taken from a popular opening chess gambit. Chess is a fine analogue for this album, because the band is in constant strategic movement, developing well designed compositions and improvisations that remain quite accessible to the average jazz listener. The band consists of Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet, Miles Okazaki on guitar, Damion Reid on drums, David Virelles on piano and Keith Witty on bass. Some of the musicians here have worked closely with saxophonist and conceptualist Steve Coleman and his knotty ideas have clearly rubbed off. The song “Carthage” has some very intricate guitar playing with its lattice work supported by percussive piano and drums. “Tensegrity” opens with subtle acoustic guitar suspended in space, before the rest of the band joins in at medium tempo. There is a nice delicate acoustic guitar feature in the middle. A subtle piano filigree opens "Le Bas-Fond" before the music jumps forward, with an uptempo feel. There is a strong piano, bass and drums interlude, before Finlayson returns with a punchy trumpet statement. "Tyre" is a spry uptempo, with the instruments weaving together closely, while "Fives and Pennies" has a slow and spare opening with piano and bass probing the darkness. Finlayson plays long lines of trumpet in the open spaces. The music continues to grow and evolve with insistent piano chords and sharp trumpet. Okazaki  breaks out for a quicksilver guitar moment before being overtaken the the piano trio which build a more consistent feel. "Scaean Gates" finishes the album with a nicely hewn piano, soloing and supporting fine architecture of the performance. This was a well done and consistently interesting album. Finlayson didn't rush to make his first album, and it shows in the patience and thoughtfulness on display.Moment and the Message -

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