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Somewhat of a late bloomer as a leader, James Finn seems to be making up for lost time. After the release last year of his debut, Opening the Gates (Cadence Jazz), Finn promptly returned to the studio with his trio featuring bassist Dominic Duval and drummer Warren Smith to make this recordand Plaza de Toros, with the same group, which is already slated for release next month.
Arranged as a suite, Faith in a Seed is "a musical story about the life of a seed, as Finn puts it, but it's also clearly a sort of spiritual allegory, as the titles of the individual songs suggest, from the opening title track to numbers like "A Weathered Spirit Resolute and the closing "Walking With Angels. The spirituality of Faith in a Seed, though, is less akin to warm, easygoing gospel than to the often harsh spirituality of late Coltrane, whose work Finn's music sometimes resembles. This is not a recording that goes down easily, but it does reward repeated listenings.
Finn often resorts to intense flurries of notes and the high-pitched, wrenching screeches beloved of avant-garde saxophonists, and these moments of high intensity tend to dominate one's initial impression of the record. But after a few times through, the quieter places start to register and these spots, where Finn is more restrained and allows his melodic ideas room to breathe, come to seem the real high points of the recordthe tiny whispering sounds of "Willing Through Darkness are seen as more profound than the earthquake of "A Weathered Spirit Resolute.
Though Finn has clearly already developed a strong voice as an improviser, it will be interesting to see where his new role as a leader takes him. Already with this record, and apparently with the forthcoming Plaza de Toros, he has shown a sound inclination to make albums with a strong sense of organization and thematic unity. Partisans of free jazz will be happy to have Finn on the scene and will be eagerly looking to him for more.
Track Listing: Faith in a Seed; Struggling to See the Sun; Willing Through Darkness; A Weathered Spirit Resolute; All the Love Shining On; Bright Leaves Yellow and Green; With a Pocket Full of Sundrops; Walking With Angels.
Personnel: James Finn (tenor saxophone); Dominic Duval (bass); Warren Smith (drums).