FAME Review: The Matthew Finck Jonathan Ball Project - It's not that Far
The Matthew Finck Jonathan Ball Project - It's not that Far

It's not that Far

The Matthew Finck Jonathan Ball Project

Available from CD Baby.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Saxist Jonathan Ball and guitarist Matthew Finck have in the past worked with cats like Roswell Rudd, John Medeski, Randy Gillespie, and a buncha others, so it's not surprising they attracted heavyweights Adam Nussbaum (drums) and Jay Anderson (Bass) as a rhythm section in the Finck/Ball Project quartet…and then trumpeter Randy Brecker (um, if I need to explain who this cat is, you need to be watching TV instead) to sit in on three tracks. It's not that Far is a cluster of nine songs, all but one penned by one or the other in the lead pair, and provides a fusiony be-boppy approach to straight-ahead.

Finck and Ball mesh very well, neither working overtime to see how many riffs or notes per second they can get in, much more concentrated in atmospheres creatively wrought, illuminations vectored around the melodics, permutations crafted on the fly. Nonetheless, it also needs to be noted that Brecker adds immensely every time he steps in, paired up with Ball or solo, extending the palette appreciably. That thins out nicely in the balladic I Thought You had Gone, spare and lean, Finck in control, but Ball erupts in Conundrum and starts blowing hard, Brecker coming in later to embroider and circle around his designs.

Conundrum, though, we find, was a bridge to another more soothing affair, East 86th, mellowing out on a New York summer's evening, night lights flickering into existence, traffic taking its time getting from here to there, people smiling as they slowfoot to a restaurant and good company. As with Brecker, I'm not sure who I'd class Finck with stylewise, he treads between a lot of influences, but Finck is definitely old school Farlow, Ellis, Martino, and then hints of Abercrombie and Scofield. Writes that way, too. He and Ball know just what they want to do, and, like Brecker, never travel too far from a celebrated center continuing to provoke no end of craftsmanship and elicit rapt interest. If this kind of music ever goes away, it'll probably only be because Ragnarok is upon us, maybe even brought on by its absence.

Oh, and not only is their partnership exceedingly democratic, not just evenly splitting writing duties but also hopscotching their appearances in the repertoire line-up, but Finck's publishing sobriquet is one of the most hilarious I've ever runacross: Asslap Music. I wish he wouldn't have done that, as, while I was perusing the liner notes, I was also sipping some vermouth (sweet, love that stuff), ran across the nametag, and busted out laughing, getting the wine up my nose. Man, alcohol up yer shnozz just ain't the same as milk, so I won't be doing that again any time soon!

Track List:

  • It's Not That Far (Jonathan Ball)
  • Gentle Soul (Matthew Finck)
  • Levin's Impression (Jonathan Ball)
  • I Thought You Had Gone (Matthew Finck)
  • Conundrum (Jonathan Ball)
  • East 86Th (Matthew Finck)
  • Geppetto (Jonathan Ball)
  • The Way You Look Tonight (Jerome Kern)
  • Get Up! (Matthew Finck)

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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