Joe Finn

Straight Ahead

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The bucolic splendor of upstate New York is fast becoming the preferred living and performing venue for many jazz artists. One of these is Connecticut refugee, guitar player Joe Finn. He has gathered a group of like-minded citizen jazz performers in the studio for an interesting program of Finn originals plus one standard. A distinguishing characteristic of Finn's music is that it provides plenty of space for improvisation while at the same time retaining a melodic structure that stays in contact with the listener and is particularly pleasing to the ear. Like the areas where these players live, the music is also exceedingly comfortable. Listen to the unhurried, non-competitive give and take on "Jingle Voutie," a word coming straight from the language, musical and narrative, invented by Slim Gaillard. "Trane Time" is an upbeat tune that has Finn swinging out with his clean, unadorned chordal approach to the music. Throughout the session, Finn's playing reveals a smooth tone and immaculate technique, reminiscent of such players as Barney Kessel and Herb Ellis. These features come through on "Esprit," where he gives bass player Peter Toigo some individual playing time. "The Days of Wine and Roses" is done virtually single string with little plucking, giving the tune a lovely resonance. This tune is the province of the guitar player and pianist Peg Delaney, as the latter falls in behind the former's extemporized meanderings throughout this Henry Mancini chestnut. "Black Dome" allows Rob Fisch to show off his ability on the muted trumpet, as he pensively converses with Toigo. This album represents no thundering breakthroughs, nor particularly adds that much to guitar literature. What it does do, however, is provide more than 50 minutes of laid-back but inventive music that's well played. Recommended.