The word ‘synergy’ is often thrown at any attempt to work together. True collaboration is much rarer, and results in a whole greater than the sum of parts. And that describes my feelings about ‘It’s Not That Far’ from the Matthew Finck-Jonathon Ball Project. Two great musicians with a solid band and great guest makes some magical music.
Musical Genre: Jazz
Where to buy: iTunes
Artist: Matthew Finck-Jonathon Ball Project
From the artist:
Matthew Finck, guitar, and Jonathan Ball, tenor saxophone, with their new album “It’s Not That Far,” continue the vast and varied range of collaborations between their instruments, expanding their conversations, and on three tracks, enriching their sound with the trumpet and flugelhorn of Randy Brecker. Their collective experience reaches back deep to the blues, gospel, and R&B, is grounded in bebop, and draws from sources as disparate as funk, rock, Bossa Nova and fusion. Matthew Finck (b.1972), has collaborated in the past with Roswell Rudd, John Medeski, and Steve Wilson among many. Jonathan Ball (b.1968), has teamed up with Ira Coleman, Randy Gillespie, Giovanni Hildago, Charles Flores, and Dafnis Prieto, to name just a few.
When I got this CD, there were two names that jumped off the cover at me: Randy Brecker and Adam Nussbaum. Brecker was half of the 70s power-funk ‘Brecker Brothers’ and has made tons of great music throughout his career. Adam Nussbaum is perhaps less of a ‘household name’, even in the jazz world, but his work on John Scofield’s ‘Shinola’ in 1981 attracted my attention and I have been a fan ever since.
In my review of PJ Rasmussen’s new album, I was critical of the guitar and piano stomping all over each other in a way that limited the effectiveness of either instrument harmonically or rhythmically. This album is a perfect example of why I prefer one or the other – we start out with Finck dropping some complex chords that set the harmonic stage for Ball as he begins to improvise. There is a ton of energy but also a deep level of communication and great use of space.
Finck and Ball are established musicians, but one thing I love is that they have no problem drawing on influences to bring subtle nuances to certain situations – especially when it is a team effort. Ball is clearly inspired by greats such as Sonny Rollins and Wayne Shorter, and Finck brings both rock and funk as well as a grounding in the styles of Jim Hall and Joe Pass to the music. So when there are passaches where they channel the early 60s work of Rollin’s quartets featuring Hall, it made me smile. It is never trite or hackneyed, instead adding a great reference that works musically in the situation.
The other members – Adam Nussbaum on drums and Jay Anderson on badd – and featured guest trumpeter Randy Brecker, all help bring the music to life. They are unselfish in their support and sharing, making the entire proceeding shine as much from when they lay back as when they play.
The compositions – there are eight originals split between Finck and Ball plus ‘The Way You Look Tonight’ – are solid and interesting, providing captivating melodies and platforms for improvisation. In fact, I found the cover song to be less engaging than the originals
‘Quick Hit’ Song: “East 86th Street” – a great collaboration where all four members are working together to bring the feeling of a particular place to mind for listeners. The production allows us to enjoy all of the nuances from Anderson and Nussbaum, and Finck’s support as Ball improvises is captivating in stylistic breadth.
Would I recommend?: Absolutely! As I mentioned, the level of collaboration and interplay here is thoroughly enjoyable to experience. Add on the great rhythm section and the energy from Randy Brecker and you have a winning formula!
Suggested audience: This is a great listen for fans of guitar jazz, tenor saxophone, mainstream jazz, the works of Sonny Rollins, and so on. Easy to enjoy and appreciate, but rewarding for those with a deeper appreciation of jazz history as well.
Price: $8.91 on iTunes.
Source: Publisher provided review CD
Here is the group playing ‘East 86th Street’: