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Nick Finzer: Hear & Now

Dan McClenaghan By

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New York-based trombonist Nick Finzer has benefited from mentorships under trombone masters Wycliffe Gordon and Steve Turre; but his third CD release, Hear And Now also brings the original trombones master, J.J. Johnson to mind. One of Johnson's last CDs, the minor masterpiece, Heroes (Verve Records, 1995), featured a sextet configuration with an enormously-talented pianist, Renee Rosnes, in the mix. Hear & Now is a sextet outing with an up-and-coming, unlimited potential talent, Glenn Zaleski, sitting in front of the eighty-eights. Both the albums are filled with cerebral-yet-always engaging tunes, all of them very artfully arranged—Johnson was a master at that craft. It seems that Nick Finzer is developing on a b-line in that direction.

On a nine tune set, featuring eight Finzer originals, along with Duke Ellington's "Single Petal Of A Rose," everything from the opener—the propulsive barn burner, "We the People," through to the dreamily gorgeous closer "Love Wins"—comes wrapped in often delicate, always intricate arrangements, featuring snappy interplay and back and forth harmonics between Zaleski's piano and Alex Wintz' guitar; with intimate conversations between the leader's muscular notes and Lucas Pino's searing tenor sax and his mellifluously beautiful bass clarinet work; all of this anchored by the solid yet-flexible bass/drums team of, respectively, Dave Baron and Jimmy Macbride.

The sextet broods in dark tones on "The Silent One." The music is, in part, Finzer's reaction to America's social framework, to events transpiring here and now. This tune changes directions and tempos; Pino's saxophone lets loose and anguished cry; Baron and MacBride churn up a disconcerting turbulence, before Finzer and Pino harmonize into a soothing—or perhaps slightly exhausted by the whole affair (the framework, not the music)—conclusion.

The group's take on Ellington's "The Single Petal of a Rose," from the under recognized "The Queen's Suite," is a idiosyncratic examination of one of Duke's most beautiful tunes, with Zaleski displaying a light, floating touch on the piano, and Finzer and Pino (on bass clarinet here) sounding as if they'd fit into Ellington's orchestra, from any era.

Finzer has crafted a complex showcase for his vision throughout the set, with music that goes moves from the timelessness of Ellington into more modern territory as it lays down an unsettled feeling with "Again And Again," into the frenetic, wired tight "Race To the Bottom."

As for Finzer, it sounds as if he may be on track toward a race to the top, as much as an arranger/composer/conceptualist as he is a trombonist.

Track Listing: We the People; The Silent One; Single Petal of a Rose; Again and Again; Race to the Bottom; New Beginnings; Lullaby for an Old Friend; Dance of Persistence; Love Wins.

Personnel: Nick Finzer: trombone; Lucas Pino: tenor sax, bass clarinet; Alex Wintz: guitar; Glenn Zaleski: piano; Dave Baron: drums; Jimmy MacBride: drums.

Title: Hear & Now | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Outside In Music

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