James Finn

Faith in a Seed

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CIMP released James Finn's first recording as a leader in 2004 when he was already nearly forty years old, an amazing fact considering his substantial talent. Since then, Finn has recorded several albums, each featuring his brawny, often overwhelming, free improvisations. The saxophonist is not all bluster, though, and while his signature full sound can fill a room even at low volume, he is amply capable of distinguishing himself at a tamer, slower pace, as he shows here on, for example, "All the Love Shining On." Finn's signature is his intensity, his ability to soar with unmitigated force, in a way that conjures influences as impressive and diverse as Peter Brötzmann and Cecil Taylor. Finn's tone is thinner than that of Brötzmann, and the level of maturity in his lines does not match the rage of Germany's enfant terrible. Yet for all that, those looking for an alternative in the genre of free improvisation will not be disappointed. The signature piece of the album may be the in-your-face "A Weathered Spirit Resolute," with its magnificent falsettos (something in which the saxophonist engages on several tracks) and an almost mind-numbing intensity that rarely dissipates. Finn exudes confidence, and although there are no melodies, his background as a jazz performer, coupled with a consummate discipline, contributes to the logical development of his improvisations. He is ably assisted by Dominic Duval on acoustic bass and Warren Smith on drums, the latter of whom sports some particularly attractive solos that emphasize the melodic nature of his drum set. While a second horn and even a piano would be welcome and potentially increase the accessibility and artistic variety of his work, Finn makes another strong statement as a serious and controlled fireball who continues to make an indelible mark.