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Nick Grinder: Farallon

Jerome Wilson By

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The striking thing about this CD by Bay Area trombonist Nick Grinder is how warm and soothing it sounds. It is not Smooth Jazz by any means, but there is a broad, melodic tone to Grinder's playing and the way he arranges the music that feels inviting and friendly. This is present even in up-tempo pieces like "New And Happy," with its brisk bebop cadences, and the prickly battle of "5 Steps" between Grinder's dancing horn, Ethan Helm's twisting alto saxophone and Juanma Trujillo's lushly grinding electric guitar.

The slower tracks are the more potent ones. On "Potential" Grinder and Helm wander freely around in space until Trujillo, bassist Walter Stinson and drummer Matt Honor slowly pull them into a brooding ballad format. "Inaction" is a melancholy piece about the lack of reaction to gun violence in this country. Grinder blows muted statements of mourning against slow, heavy guitar chords and spaced-out bits of rhythm, leading into Trujillo taking his own weary but eloquent solo turn.

Helm does not play on every track but Trujillo does, creating moody atmospherics that are a big part of the overall uniqueness of this set. His use of fluid, trebly chords and harsh, ghostly effects give him more in common with edgy rock players like Robert Fripp than most jazz guitarists. On "Farallon" he creates an ephemeral backdrop for Stinson's thoughtful bass soloing and Grinder's low moaning. On "Belly Up" his brisk chords wind around a gliding blend of trombone and sax before he flies into a storm of nimbly picked notes and chords, bringing Jerry Garcia to mind.

"Deciduous" is unabashed up-tempo jazz-rock with everyone bouncing off an intricate, tight rhythm bed and storming into turbulent solos. Here Trujillo rolls into eerie electronic whooshes behind Grinder's swooping solo before conjuring his own world of slow motion heavy metal guitar. On "Staged" the table is set by a combination of droning bass and shuffling drums with a Middle Eastern flavor. Grinder strolls through the flowing melody, Honor takes a vigorous solo and Trujillo's contributes flinty chords that sound like Gabor Szabo. Thelonious Monk's "Reflections" ends the CD on a note of relaxed calm as the trombone works low-key variations into the sentimental tune.

The combination of Grinder's interesting arrangements and Trujillo's evocative versatility give this set a calm center even when the music gets stormy. This set has an unassuming but potent beauty that Grinder's quintet expertly brings to life.

Track Listing: New And Happy; Potential; 5 Steps; Inaction; Belly Up; Deciduous; Farallon; Staged; Reflections.

Personnel: Nick Grinder: trombone; Ethan Helm: saxophone; Juanma Trujillo: guitar; Walter Stinson: bass; Matt Honor: drums.

Title: Farallon | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Outside In Music

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