Nick Finzer – Hear & Now [TrackList follows] – Outside in Music OiM1701, 57:19 [2/17/17] ****:
Trombone in the here and now.
(Nick Finzer – trombone, co-producer; Lucas Pino – tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Alex Wintz – guitar; Glenn Zaleski – piano; Dave Baron – bass; Jimmy Macbride – drums)
Trombonist Nick Finzer’s third release, Hear & Now, is a notable jazz album. First, it introduces Finzer’s new sextet, also dubbed Hear & Now. Second, it confirms trombones are masterful jazz instruments and trombonists continue to be dynamic jazz group leaders and composers: think Trombone Shorty, the members of New Orleans’ band Bonerama and Robin Eubanks. Third, the socio-political elements which flit through the hour-long Hear & Now resonate loud and clear in a time of turmoil, confusion, hatred and conflict: Hear & Now reinforces the idea that instrumental jazz music should, when possible, have connections to all our lives: not just musical but political, emotional and so on.
All but one of the nine tracks are Finzer originals (there is one cover by Duke Ellington). Finzer starts with the initial single, “We the People.” The tune’s sentiment mirrors a quote by Indian philosopher, speaker and writer Jiddu Krishnamurti—the quote is found on the CD digipak’s inner sleeve—which states, “Transformation can only take place immediately; the revolution is now, not tomorrow.” “We the People” is an apt CD opener, with a driving and bop-tinted arrangement which showcases Finzer’s vibrant trombone style (Finzer learned from trombone masters Wycliffe Gordon and Steve Turre). Prominent solos also come from acoustic pianist Glenn Zaleski and guitarist Alex Wintz. Finzer displays a cooler and more thoughtful tone on another composition with a socio-political foundation, “The Silent One,” which melds both a light mannerism and a dark characteristic. Finzer says “The Silent One” is a reaction to America’s social context, to events taking place which affect all Americans and others in the wider world. “The Silent One” is a microcosm of altering tempos, musical directions and feelings. Lucas Pino’s tenor saxophone has a free and soaring spaciousness sometimes akin to Coltrane (who, by the way, was also a Krishnamurti fan). Bassist Dave Baron and drummer Jimmy Macbride are key to the rhythm, whipping up a liberated rhythmic commotion. One of Finzer’s lengthier numbers is the sober, eight-minute ballad, “New Beginnings,” which has a wonderful course and flow which emerges, nuance by nuance. During “New Beginnings,” Pino’s bass clarinet has a subtle conversation with Finzer’s trombone: the way the two instruments commingle and solo proves how complementary the two instruments can be, and their understated harmonics are supplemented by Macbride’s refined percussion and Baron’s warm bass notes. Finzer’s facility with ballads is also offered on the ode to companionship, the quietly cadenced 7:33 “Lullaby for an Old Friend.” Here, there is a graceful communication, highlighted by a duet section featuring Baron and Zaleski; another segment where Finzer and Wintz fluently join forces; and Zaleski contributes a sinuous piano solo.
Finzer and Hear & Now enter modernistic jazz terrain on two cuts, “Again and Again” and “Race to the Bottom.” There is a slight nervousness and anxiety which permeates the nine-minute “Again and Again,” the longest work. There is a reflective nature stressed by a slow to mid-tempo escalation. Wintz presents a Wes Montgomery stance during his extended solo, and later there is some close sax and trombone interplay. On the other hand, “Race to the Bottom” has a high-speed, restless attitude like “We the People.” If anyone wants to hear a fast and inimitable trombone, give a listen to “Race to the Bottom.” One of Finzer’s avowed heroes is Ellington. “Duke was my entranceway to jazz,” Finzer acclaims. “I’ve always admired his range and the many textures he would create with his bands. He always had something to say with his music, whether it was a solo-piece or with an orchestra. His music truly started me on the path I walk today.” Instead of choosing one of Ellington’s famous and iconic statements, Finzer picked the sublime “Single Petal of a Rose,” from Ellington’s 1959 “The Queen’s Suite,” penned for Queen Elizabeth II and not commercially issued until 1976. “Single Petal of a Rose” is a picturesque and charming portrayal, with that memorable Ellington orchestral panache. Finzer utilizes a plunger to provide a distinct, older trombone quality, Zaleski exhibits a feathery piano elegance and Pino is heard again on bass clarinet. This ruminative piece is a sure winner and deserves wider recognition by other musicians. Trombone may never trump trumpets or outshine saxes as a favored jazz instrument among jazz listeners, but if Finzer (and other current trombonists) has anything to say about it, the trombone won’t be forgotten or relegated to history.
We the People
The Silent One
Single Petal of a Rose
Again and Again
Race to the Bottom
Lullaby for an Old Friend
Dance of Persistence
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