Nick Finzer: Cast Of Characters

Dan McClenaghan By

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Nick Finzer: Cast Of Characters
A cryptic element lurks beneath trombonist Nick Finzer's Cast Of Characters. The theme of the album is artistic influences. But who are they...

"We laugh, we cry, we celebrate, we learn, and we forge our own path on the shoulders of those who came before us. We are both the sum of our experience and the product of our influence. We are who we choose to embrace." This is from the spread out trifecta of liner notes in the tri-fold cover of the album.

There are six "cast characters" pictured on the album art—Finzer influences, we can assume. One of them is Duke Ellington. Not bad. A trombonist could do worse than cite the influence of perhaps America's greatest composer—one who, incidentally, for fifteen years, in his famed orchestra, employed Juan Tizol, the co-author of Ellington staples "Caravan" and "Perdido." The subject of a trombonist skilled at composition is pertinent here; Finzer penned all of the tunes on Cast Of Characters, much in the mode of his tune-smithing on his 2016 offering, Here & Now (Outside In Records), Duke Ellington's "Single Petal Of a Rose," on the earlier album, being the one exception.

The Cast: Sorcerer, Brutus, A Duke, The Weatherman, Venus and the Guru. With a nod to these, Finzer crafts a suite of exquisite beauty. He writes superb post-bop compositions and arranges them for his sextet with an unsurpassable deftness, sprinkling in sparkling and succinct solos which never take the spotlight from the music's "ensemble sound first" mode of operation. Finzer's trombone is joined by Lucas Pino on sax and bass clarinet, Glenn Zaleski on piano, with guitarist Alex Wintz, bassist Dave Baron and drummer Jimmy Macbride, the same group that recorded Here & Now. Ryan Truesdell—a fine arranger himself, coming out of the Gil Evans / Maria Schneider school—produced both albums and, arrangement wise, there does seem to be a Gil Evans- esque feeling to the sound—an airiness/fullness dynamic containing intricate complexities adding a richness to the proceedings. It can make you wonder what Finzer would do with a larger ensemble.

The tag of jazz as "America's Classical Music" is given credence here. An orchestra isn't necessary for the making of beautifully erudite and engaging sounds. Nick Finzer does it with two horns and a standard rhythm section—plus a guitar.

And: cool cover art.

Track Listing

A Sorcerer; Intro to...; Evolution of Perspective; Brutus; Intro to...; Patience, Patience; A Duke; (Take The) Fork In the Road; The Weatherman; Venus; Intro to...; You'll Never Know The Alternative; The Guru; We're More Than The Sum Of Our Influences.


Nick Finzer: trombone; Lucas Pino: clarinet, bass; Alex Wintz: guitar; Glenn Zaleski: piano; Dave Baron: bass, acoustic; Jimmy Macbride: drums.

Album information

Title: Cast Of Characters | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Outside in Music

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