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James Finn Trio: Plaza De Toros

Dan McClenaghan By

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Listening to Plaza De Toros, you wonder what James Finn would have done in life if the saxophone hadn't been invented. The intrument seems made for him—full of passion and rage and tenderness, beauty and anguish, growls and gruff whispers and torrid wails... You just get the feeling the man's soul is coming out of his horn here.

While living in the mountains near Woodstock, New York, Finn took his saxophone out into a meadow and played with the cicadas. That may sound strange, but in a world where people jostle for Donald Trump's attention on the tube (is there enough money in the world?), where they eat bugs and betray each other on television reality shows for a million bucks, some guy who takes his horn out and plays with the bugs—for the pure joy of it—might just be an important artist, even if he only sells a couple handfuls of CDs, even if Trump never knows him.

Dominic Duval plays bass here—if you've listened to some of his CIMP discs (recently including Journey, with Joe McPhee and Jay Rosen as Trio X) you know him as an intense and passionate artist. Warren Smith (who's new to me) plays drums; and since I've mentioned CIMP recordings, he reminds me a bit of drummer Jay Rosen in the way he weaves intricate and complex textures, though his sound is less fluid, more puntuation in the snare and cymbal, feeling more like splintered glass.

So it's a trio—sax/bass/drums—in a very improvisational mood, with Finn celebrating—Plaza De Toros—the essense of the bullfight. That part loses me (the celebration of the torturing to death of an animal as a spectator sport), but the bottom line here is the music: loose and free and fierce at times, the musicians locked in a very satifying symbiosis, playing along a thematic thread that holds the sound together from start to finish. An inspired and transcendent sound.

Visit James Finn on the web.


Track Listing: Toreo de Capa, Plaza de Toro, The Phantom Bull of Seville, El Tercio de Varas, Eyes of Angelina, El Tercio de Vanderillas, El Tercio de Muleta, La Estocata, Toro Bravo

Personnel: James Finn--tenor saxophone; Dominic Duval--double bass; Warren Smith--drums

Title: Plaza De Toros | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Clean Feed Records

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