Jonathan Finlayson

3 Times Round
Pi Recordings 77

Although closely identified with Steve Coleman’s Five Elements, band with which he has been playing for 18 years, trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson’s new set of seven originals seems to more accurately reflect the influence of another band leader with whom he has also played. In fact despite lacking tuba, cello and two drummers, this sextet approximates the sound of Henry Threadgill’s Sextett from the early 1980s.

Not that there’s any hint of copying. But considering that besides the Oakland, Calif.-born trumpeter, drummer Craig Weinrib also put in time with Threadgill, compositional osmosis from the AACM saxophonist may just have been in the air. Others players on the date are all young-veteran pacesetters of the New York scene: alto saxophonist Steve Lehman and tenor saxophonist Brian Settles plus pianist Matt Mitchell and bassist John Hébert. Overall though, it’s only “Refined Strut” and the preceding, most dramatic “The Moon is New” which appear most overtly Threadgillian. Trenchant and balladic, the first tells its story as it evolves from hard comping from Mitchell and airy flutter tonguing from the trumpeter that is cushioned by a saxophone choir. Divergently, the multi-sectional “Moon is New” reaches its zenith with an exchange among open-horn brassiness from Finlayson, straight-ahead tenor sax vibrations and swirling piano chords, following percussive bowed bass and bass clef keyboard elaboration and culminating in overlapping piano and bass string chording which drone to the ending.

Hébert’s rugged buzzing bass solo is the centerpiece of “A Stone, a Pond, a Thought”, with the intimated ripples embodied by dual saxophone timbres corkscrewing and circling upwards and pushed forwards by drum rim-shot cracks. Meanwhile the high-pitched, fruity snarl expressed by Lehman on the concluding “Tap-Tap” not only gamely complements amoeba-like swirls of piano extensions, but it also succinctly sums up and confirms the alternately exploratory and reassuring ideas expressed by Finlayson compositions.

With no pretenses of being a future Jazz classic, 3 Times Round is still notable in presenting an up-to-the-minute glimpse of the contemporary (New York) Jazz scene.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Feints 2. Grass 3. A Stone, a Pond, a Thought 4. The Moon is New 5. Refined Strut 6, Rope From the Sky 7. Tap-Tap

Personnel: Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet); Steve Lehman (alto saxophone); Brian Settles (tenor saxophone); Matt Mitchell (piano); John Hébert (bass) and Craig Weinrib (drums)