Nick Finzer: Dreams Visions Illusions

American trombonist leads saxophone, guitar, piano, bass and drums in a set of fluent, hard-bop styled originals

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The titles on trombonist Nick Finzer’s latest album – such as To Dream A Bigger Dream and But I Did What They Said – are reminders of other self-questioning projects: John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, for example. Finzer’s odyssey includes the call to move past “the entrapments of capitalism’s unscratchable itch”. If that sentiment had detained Coltrane at all he would mostly have kept to himself and articulated it in the music, his “gift to God”.

We might expect narratives and ideas embodied in chart titles and musician or composer statements to be elucidated in the music itself. The trouble is, musical sounds, however deft their management, can mean different things to different listeners. But in any event, Finzer’s deftly managed sounds on this album are one of its most cheering characteristics.

His regular and well-practised sextet acquits itself with distinction in this three-part, 10-section work, written in response to a grant from Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works programme. Its energy, introspection and luminosity make the leader’s spiritual journey cooperative, notably led by what Finzer and tenor saxophonist and bass clarinettist Lucas Pino do upfront. What they do is complete, and at the end of Now, Then And When guitarist Alex Wintz is left to deliver a lovely valedictory coda. By that point pianist Glenn Zaleski, bassist Dave Baron and drummer Jimmy Macbride have left their marks.

The “dreams, visions, and illusions” of the album’s title are very much the leader’s concerns – it’s his project – but the way he shares them with the rest of the band makes them theirs too, and that’s an achievement. Finzer’s trombone can be robust (To Dream A Bigger Dream), eloquently vouchsafing (I Thought I Took The Road Less Travelled) and almost beseeching (But I Did What They Said). It arises always from inventive backgrounds, especially where, as in Vision Or Mirage, an element of indecision marks Finzer’s upward-stepping theme.

Not all questions, musical ones in particular, are guaranteed to have answers, but Finzer & Co. show how jazz can at least be a repository for collective communing.

Discography
Dreams: To Dream A Bigger Dream; Aspirations And Convictions; Intro To Follow Your Heart; Follow Your Heart. Visions: I Thought I Took The Road Less Travelled; But I Did What They Said; To The “Top”. Illusions: Vision Or Mirage; Waking Up; Now, Then and When (54.06)
Finzer (tb); Lucas Pino (ts, bcl); Alex Wintz (g); Glenn Zaleski (p); Dave Baron (b); Jimmy Macbride (d). New York, 20 July 2022.
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