How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
The final scene from the 1998 cult classic movie, The Big Lebowski, has the cowboy narrator telling the audience: "Then, I happen to know that there's a little Lebowski on the way. I guess that's the way the whole durned human comedy keeps perpetuatin' itself, down through the generations, westward the wagons, across the sands a time."
In jazz, musical knowledge also perpetuates itself through the generations, keeping its wagons rolling. Case in point: trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, who joined saxophonist Steve Coleman
and his Five Element band at 18, releasing his debut as a leader at 31. His band, Sicilian Defense (named after a famous opening chess strategy), is also stacked with the next generation of torch bearers: guitarist Miles Okazaki
. "Circus" opens the disc, revealing Finlayson's Threadgill-like penchant to set his players in motion using varying melodic lines, all of which are held together by Reid's punchy beat, and the trumpeter acting as musical shepherd. His precise sound, like that of saxophonist Steve Lehman
(who often employs the trumpeter), derives from a classical musician's punctiliousness. Like Lehman, Finlayson can weave jazz out of an almost mathematical approach to songwriting. He draws out an unconventional tango on "Tensegrity," with Okazaki switching to acoustic guitar and the trumpeter applying his Five Elements language to Latin jazz.
Like his mentor Coleman, the trumpeter makes the odd-metered tune sound strangely familiar, speaking the Coleman language with his own accents. Such complexity is displayed in a composition like the momentum-building "Five And Pennies," featuring the trumpeter's adroit and sympathetic sound. He takes the mathematical complexity of chess and delivers it in a very human form of music.
Track Listing: Circus; Lo Haze; Ruy Lopez; Carthage; Tensegrity; Le Bas-Fond; Tyre;
Fives and Pennies;
Personnel: Jonathan Finlayson: trumpet; Miles Okazaki: guitar; Damion Reid: drums;
piano; Keith Witty: bass.