As a solo artist, trumpeter/composer Jonathan Finlayson (Steve Coleman, Henry Threadgill) has been forging a rapid growth-pattern, conspicuously illustrated here, on his third release for Pi. On his previous solo outings for the label, Finlayson was the lone horn player with his band Sicilian Defense. Now, he broadens his scope by employing eminent saxophonists, Steve Lehman and Brian Settles. Indeed, it's an all-star aggregation of like-minded cohorts, who are willing to take risks with the utmost verve and intensity.
Traces of Finlayson's 18-year affiliation with Coleman and more recent membership of Threadgill's bands, may have servedto a certain degreeas a preamble to his emergence as one of the newer boundary-stretching conceptualists. These pieces spark peppery, odd-metered cadences with experimental caricatures of native jazz idioms amid mutable tonalities and swiftly executed odd-metered unison choruses. And with the frontline's dashing, razor-sharp solos and brisk call-and-response activities atop the rhythm section's reverberating grooves, you have a malleable in-your-face program that commands attention.
The three horns often engage in vibrant dialogues via superfast flurries and expand/contract maneuvers, countered with shifting pulses and persistent reinvention activities, awash with contrapuntal underpinnings. However, pianist Matt Mitchell plays multiple roles. For instance, on "A Stone, A Pond, A Thought" he launches a swirling and melodic ostinato with lower register block chords to map out the pulse, where bassist John Hebert renders solemn connotations with his mellow arco-lines. But soon afterwards the ensemble kicks into a dazzling motif, and open up the floor with rangy dialogues and spirited phrasings, where Mitchell circles back around and revitalizes the tuneful ostinato.
"Refined Strut" projects an off-centered groove, firmed-up by Hebert's deep and punctual notes, Finlayson's soul-drenched and tuneful riffs, abetted by the saxophonists' moody and easy-going passages, followed by Mitchell's congenial fade out. The ensemble comes right at you again during the final track "Tap-Tap," highlighted by Lehman's popping notes and a thorny progression towards closeout.
Finlayson's bold sound, spirited narratives and emphatic treatments contain poetic qualities throughout. His intrepid composing skills have branded an identity that nestles him among the crème de la crème of modern-era jazz futurists.
Feints; Grass; A Stone, a Pond, a Thought; The Moon is New; Refined Strut; Rope From the Sky; Tap-Tap.
Jonathan Finlayson: trumpet; Steve Lehman: Grass; Brian Settles: tenor saxophone; Matt Mitchell: piano; John Hébert: bass;
Craig Weinrib: drums.
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