Nick Finzer – Hear and Now (2017)

Composer, bandleader and trombonist Nick Finzer returns with a hard-charging third release, Hear and Now. Out now on Outside Music, the album packs an instrumental prowess we’ve come to expect from Finzer, paired with a finely honed compositional edge and stellar musicianship from his sextet.

Hear and Now kicks off in high gear with the focus track “We the People.” Tenor saxophonist/bass clarinetist Lucas Pino and Finzer begin toe to toe, with an urgent-yet-free flowing melody which is aptly underscored by the fleet-fingered bass playing of Dave Baron and precision of drummer Jimmy MacBride. Nick Finzer, after an all-too-brief solo yields the floor to pianist Glenn Zaleski and guitarist Alex Wintz, who build upon the already heady melody – all before Macbride leads the band to a simmering end.

“The Silent One” provides a contrasting mood shaped by Finzer’s lovely tone and the intricate dance of Wintz’ guitar with Zaleski’s acoustic piano. The song seems almost deceptive in its simplicity, requiring repeated listening before the realization that what is sextet is doing is hardly simple at all. Wintz in particular sneaks in tones behind the stellar Nick Finzer solos which all but defy description.

“Race to the Bottom” seems to be a frenzied reflection of our troubling life and times. Nick Finzer’s arrangement is spry and jaunty, as his trombone dances with the rhythm before yielding to Wintz’ clean bebop-ish soloing. Macbride’s drum solo is perfectly integrated into the fray.

“New Beginnings,” relyies on a tight arrangement and Fenzer’s remarkable tone; the song is simply gorgeous. At this point, Finzer’s sextet has proven equal to reflecting the frenzied existence of this era, however, “New Beginnings,” seems to offer a touch of hope and optimism. Lucas Pino’s bass clarinet is the cherry on top of a very delicious cake.

“Lullaby for an Old Friend” gives Finzer an opportunity to dazzle the listeners with his muted trombone overtop a pensive and introspective melody. The track, despite being an ode to a lost friends, is uplifting as the rhythm section builds while still maintaining a tenderness which is matched by Finzer and saxophonist Pino.

“Love Wins,” the final song and another one of the eight original compositions on Hear and Now, is simply an ode to love. Inspired by more recent rulings on marriage equality, the song is a tender and optimistic ballad bringing the album full circle. Co-Producer Ryan Truesdell worked along with Nick Finzer to balance both shadow and light. The result is another expectation-exceeding experience, one which sets a very high bar for jazz releases in 2017.

Nick Finzer is now on tour promoting Hear and Now. Catch him if you can.

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Preston Frazier