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CD Review: It’s Not That Far
 

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The Matthew Finck Jonathan Ball Project It's Not That Far

(2013, Independent)

For all of their harmonic and improvisational sophistication, jazz players often seem oddly complacent regarding song structure, all too willing to live within received forms that define composition as a payload of solos between heads. The average indie rock band these days seems to be thinking much harder about the shape and narrative arc of their songs, and this "get me to my solo" compositional mentality may explain some of the popular disaffection jazz has witnessed. All the more reason why It's Not That Far by the Matthew Finck Jonathan Ball Project is such a formidable and rewarding work of serious modern jazz.

Both Ball (sax) and Finck (guitar) are micro and macro composers, inventive melody writers who also display a visionary command of form and instrumental storytelling. Ball's compositions tend toward the angular and tense, with post-bop urgency, odd phrase shapes, and acute agitations of the ensemble. Finck's tunes—the swinging "Gentle Soul" or the lovely jazz waltz "East 86th"—play like the antidote to Ball's, the listener's sweet and melancholic reward for sticking with Ball's knotty challenges. Finck is a natural songwriter, but upon closer inspection, his tunes are the most structurally ambitious, seeming almost through-composed at times. The A-list rhythm section of Adam Nussbaum (drums) and Jay Anderson (bass) commands these novel, exacting forms without a hint of strain. Legendary trumpeter Randy Brecker makes substantive contributions to three tracks. Jsballmusic.com/itsnotthatfar.

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