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Jim Rotondi: Finesse


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Jim Rotondi: Finesse
Finesse is trumpeter Jim Rotondi's ninth recording as a leader but his first using a full orchestra including strings. The band and string section are from Austria, where Rotondi presently lives, performs, and teaches, and each one is quite good. As for Rotondi, besides playing superb trumpet—open or muted—he wrote every song on the album save for two brief "introductory" pieces by Jakob Helling who was the arranger on every number.

As if that many instruments weren't enough, Rotondi invited two friends, saxophonist Dick Oatts and trombonist Steve Davis, to sit in, Oatts (soprano) on "Falset," Davis on the closing "Miller Time." Danny Grissett, another American who now calls Austria home, is the pianist on what is called the Notes and Tones Jazz Orchestra. The strings are present on half a dozen tunes including the first two, "Ruth" and "Dark Blue."

Several numbers, especially those with strings, impart a definite Miles Davis/Gil Evans vibe—even though Rotondi plays more notes in four bars than Miles did in sixteen, and maybe even thirty-two. Okay, not thirty-two—but eight or sixteen, quite probably. In any case, Rotondi plus strings is often akin to Davis/Evans, most particularly on "Ladybug," the lone number on which his trumpet is muted.

The big band, as noted, does its job without any fuss, as do the strings, while Rotondi solos gorgeously on every number except for the two brief "intros," the first of which—"Before Curtis"—may refer to trombonist Curtis Fuller, as that section is showcased midway through the following number, "For Curtis," after solos by Rotondi and Grissett. One bit of housecleaning: baritone saxophonist Herwig Gradischnig is listed as a soloist on the tasteful "Going to the Sun," alto Martin Fuss on the fast-paced "In Graz," whereas the reverse is true. It should be noted that both solos are superb, among the album's highlights.

With the caveat that there is no real need for strings—they are simply there, doing their part while providing little in the way of added interest or color—Finesse is superior in every respect, thanks to Rotondi's exceptional talents and those of his Austrian comrades in arms. Those who remember the Davis/Evans masterworks fondly should warm quickly to this now-and-then near-image.

Track Listing

Ruth; Dark Blue; Lady Bug; Designated Hitter; Falset; Before Curtis; For Curtis; Going To The Sun; Prelude For 14 Strings and Flute; Interlude; In Graz; Happy Feet; Miller Time.


Album information

Title: Finesse | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Cellar Records

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