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Soundbrush SA-1012, 51:36,,
Review by Craig Nixon

First call bassist of choice for many artists, David Finck makes an overdue debut as a leader with this release.  Finck's CV ranges far and wide, from bebop to Broadway and pop stars - jazzers may know him best as a member of pianist Steve Kuhn's trio, a stint that the liner biography manages to avoid mentioning.

The bicoastal quartet includes veteran drummer Joe LaBarbera and multi-threat pianist/saxophonist/composer Tom Ranier (here sticking to the ivories) from the left coast and the leader and eclectic vibraharpist Joe Locke holding down the East Coast end of things.   Young trumpeter Jeremy Pelt and saxophonist Bob Sheppard are in for a two-track guest shot.

Locke is often the lead voice of the group, and he's in fine form throughout the date, getting off a particularly inspired solo on a version of Wayne Shorter's seldom covered “Black Eyes” and a beautiful reading of the standard “For All We Know.”  The vibist is articulate and swinging, never overplaying.  The vibrapharp can be a tricky instrument to record well, but here Locke is aided by the clear recording sound achieved by Darwin Best, a benefit that also works well to Finck's advantage - his vintage Juzek upright is captured in natural, woodsy tone. 

All four members of the quartet are each capable composers, and there indeed two tunes from Ranier and one each from Locke and LaBarbera included in the set.  Ranier's opening “I Know” sets a nice groove - the bridge gives the briefest nod toward John Lewis' “Django.”  The drummer's “If Not For You” is a gentle, almost Dameronian swinger based on the changes to “But Not For Me.”  Finck has the opening self-effacing one chorus solo that is a continuous smile throughout.  Locke's modern swinger “Appointment in Orvieto” manages to conceal its “Giant Steps” changes until its second section, and Locke and Ranier both tear it up during their solo turns.

Pelt and Sheppard are in for pianist Bevan Manson's uptempo swinger “Four Flags.” which is something of a tease at only 2:30.  The leader's samba “Look At You” has the horns returning and changing things up a bit, Pelt cup-muted and Sheppard on soprano.  The set is closed by a reading of Cedar Walton's modern jazz standard “Firm Roots” that returns the piece to a tempo closer to that of the original.  This is one of those oft-covered tunes that young players seem to treat as a speed exercise - it seems that each successive version has gotten faster and faster over the years.  Kudos to Finck's group for staying closer to the roots, firm as they are.

Reading the liners, I thought I would wind up quibbling about the brevity of this disc.  Most of the tracks are in the four to five minute range, but none feel rushed or truncated - in fact each track feels fully realized.  “Future Day” is already charting with jazz radio airplay, and with good reason - a long-deserved, solid debut from a journeyman bassist, enjoyable throughout.

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