Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Jonathan Finlayson - 3 Times Round (Pi Recordings, 2018)

Trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson is a well known band leader and a sideman of note for luminaries such as Mary Halvorson, Tomas Fujiwara and Vijay Iyer. On this album he brings together a stellar group to play an album of his original compositions, dedicated to the late composer Muhal Richard Abrams: Steve Lehman on alto saxophone, Brian Settles on tenor saxophone and flute, Matt Mitchell on piano, John Hebert on bass and Craig Weinrib on drums. "Feints" is a strong opening track for the full band with a complex and interesting theme, intricate horn playing and reactive rhythmic support. There is a section for rippling piano with tight bass and drums, playing cohesively as a tightly wound unit. Horns trade solo areas, alto, tenor, trumpet offer short thoughtful bursts of sound that act as witty rejoinders to one another and further amplify the excitement of the music as a whole. The tart sounding alto, raw tenor and crisp trumpet each offer gradations of tone and texture that make this performance a pleasure to listen to. There is a slightly darker feel to "Grass" with its bubbling percussion, and the horns weave a theme that will ebb and flow in both volume and intensity, and the horns punch outward and then break out into sections for individual expression. The saxophones develop a sweet and sour dichotomy swirling around one another before making way for a well articulated trumpet statement, playing along with percolating piano, bass and drums. Angular piano takes the rhythm section for a brief spin before the horns return to close another excellent performance. "The Moon Is New" is the longest track on the album, nearly a suite in its own right as the composition goes through several semi movements beginning with celestial piano adding beautiful and lonesome bowed bass before the full band crashes in at high speed, playing a complex statement together. Finlayson applies a light and appealing tone to his trumpet for a solo feature backed by lush piano and crisp percussion, then the music becomes more forceful and gallant, striding purposefully into near silence. The mantle is taken up by Lenman's instantly recognizable alto saxophone tearing across the music at light speed, big piano chords marking the way as he slaloms through an epic solo performance. Tenor saxophone billows forth, powering the music over a very interesting drum rhythm, keeping the music fresh and allowing it to continue to evolve, the saxophone pushing the sound relentlessly faster and more harshly forward, Then there is a surprising jolt to a swinging piano, bass and drums unit playing your basic jazz improvisation, and then proceeding to take liberties with it as they choose. This performance was fascinating, pieced together in a cellular manner with seemingly limitless possibilities. The final song on the album is "Tap-Tap," which begins with a sense of urgency from the rhythm section and the memorable theme which is presented with the horns. Things are fast, but everybody is on point and hitting their marks expertly. Settles breaks out on tenor saxophone, building his solo carefully while keeping the sense of forward momentum the track had already built. A tightly wound piano solo follows, notes cascading like a waterfall as the trumpet emerges and stakes its claim with a bold and memorable statement, before the horns begin to weave together with some more torrential alto saxophone and powerful drumming, leading the full group into a memorable conclusion. 3 Times Round - amazon.com

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