Nick Finzer’s “Cast of Characters”

Cast of Characters Digital Cover3000

CAST OF CHARACTERS / FINZER: A Sorcerer (is a Myth). Evolution Of…  …Perspective. Brutus, the Contemporary. Patience… …Patience. A Duke. (Take the) Fork in the Road. Weatherman. Venus. You’ll Never Know… …The Alternative. The Guru. We’re More Than the Sum of Our Influences / Nick Finzer, tb/ldr; Lucas Pino, t-sax/bs-cl; Alex Wintz, gtr; Glenn Zaleski, pno; Dave Baron, bs; Jimmy MacBride, dm / Outside in Music 2000

I don’t want to dwell on the idea behind this release because the music is really very good, but since the concept, packaging and promo material all proclaim leader-trombonist Nick Finzer as exploring “the nature of influence,” I felt a word or two needs to be said.

It’s certain true, as Finzer states in the booklet, that “Each of us responds and develops along our journey with the influence of the people we meet along our path. We follow, we depart, we react and we grow in myriad ways based on the experiences we encounter.” So far, I’m with him.

But turn the page and you start getting some really strange statements, e.g.:

We are both the sum of our experience and the product of our influences. We are who we choose to embrace.

This certainly doesn’t apply to me. I’ve always been my own person, even when still a child in grammar school. My “influences” are all musical, artistic and literary, but only insofar as their music, art and literature go. I never actually tried to emulate their personalities or assimilate them into my own.

Our expectations of reality are often met with a different truth.

This is probably true, but only if you involve yourself deeply with social media (or mainstream media) and choose to believe what you see and hear there. In Real World 101, for better or worse, there is only one reality I know of. I’ve yet to find a Bizarro world where reality or truth are different.

But hey, it’s his trip and not mine. At least, as I said earlier, the music on this disc, scheduled for release February 28, is excellent. The opener, A Sorcerer (is a Myth) opens with piano solo, then the sax and trombone play the intro, which is a fascinating one built around just a few notes. Piano-bass-drums pick up the music with the theme, then the whole band comes together for development and exploration via solos. The leader is up first on trombone, and he is truly superb, with a firm, rich tone and sterling technique. He almost sounds like a combination of Tommy Dorsey and Jimmy Knepper. and his solo is well constructed, not just throwing notes out there for their own sake. After a brief bass interlude, the trombone and sax return to play the intro as an interlude before Lucas Pino’s sax solo, and this is a bit more abstract in design.

Evolution of Perspective is one of three selections divided on the CD into two separate sections. The first, here, opens quietly with slow music that sounds very abstract, the two horns just throwing what sound like random notes out there while the piano plays repeated As. Then the theme is heard; like the opener, it has a very slight Middle Eastern flavor about it. Zaleski’s piano plays block chords that then introduce the second section, in a faster tempo, whose brief theme is simpler and more abstract before the solos shoot out at you. Brutus the Contemporary is a nice medium-tempo swinger, albeit with an odd-sounding meter, and on this one Pino plays bass clarinet, and does so with a “real” clarinet tone, if you know what I mean. Zaleski is finally rewarded for his patience with a good solo of his own. Finzer’s solo on this one is particularly adventurous, even a bit wild, yet fits into the surrounding material very well. Jimmy MacBride even gets some drum breaks on this one.

Patience…Patience is a slow work, brooding and moody, again introduced by piano. After stating the simple, abstract theme, the horns bow out and give the stage to Dave Baron’s bass. A Duke opens in a medium tempo which quickly morphs into a sort of shuffle rhythm, then to a straight swinging 4. The them here is rather elongated and quite interesting, which then makes the solos all the more interesting in context.

One could give such detailed descriptions of every piece on this album, which is almost like a suite, but it would perhaps spoil the element of surprise that I encountered when listening, and which I would like the reader to discover for him or herself. I’ll only hint that the opening of (Take the) Fork in the Road is one of the most interesting and unusual presented here, and leave it at that.

Cast of Characters might well have been titled An Album of Discovery, because it is exactly that. Not a bad solo or dull track on the album, and that’s saying quite a lot nowadays. Check it out!

—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley

Follow me on Twitter (@artmusiclounge) or Facebook (as Monique Musique)

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Read my book, From Baroque to Bop and Beyond: An extended and detailed guide to the intersection of classical music and jazz


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