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OutsideInMusic OIM 1907 [62: 30]



  1. New And Happy

  2. Potential

  3. 5 Steps

  4. Inaction

  5. Belly Up

  6. Deciduous

  7. Farallon

  8. Staged

  9. Reflections

    Nick Grinder - Trombone

    Ethan Helm - Saxophone

    Juanma Trujillo - Guitar

    Walter Stinson - Bass

    Matt Honor - Drums

    Trombonist and composer Nick Grinder was raised in the Bay Area of San Francisco and part of his memory of growing up there relates to the presence nearby of the Farallon Islands, a sanctuary for seabirds and marine mammals, a mere thirty miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge. The Islands, which Grinder describes as “a backdrop to my youth”, also serve as an inspiration for his second album as a leader, in particular for the title track. The disc contains eight original pieces by Grinder and a splendid composition, unknown to this reviewer previously, by Thelonious Monk. Nick's musical collaborators here have, for the most part, worked with him before, in particular Venezuelan-born Juanma Trujillo, who attended Cal State Northridge in LA at the same time as Grinder. Guitarist Trujillo and Grinder also co-founded the Long Range Quintet and released, in digital-format only, a live performance by the group at the Blue Whale in Los Angeles in 2014. Grinder took his master's degree at NYU and is now based in New York City. He has had extensive experience with big bands and, as well as working with jazz luminaries such as Wycliff Gordon, Ralph Alessi and Donny McCaslin, has a formidable track record with pop artistes and on the Broadway musical scene. I heard him guesting on a single track of trumpeter Yngvil Vain Guttu's 2014 release, On The Crosswalk. He made an immediate impression on me.

    Four of the nine tracks on the album stand out. Potential, the longest track at just over ten minutes, has saxophone and trombone intertwining skilfully, demonstrating their quality as the group's front line. They are alert and responsive to the nuances of each other's playing. Helm is lyrical on alto while an extended bass solo by Walter Stinson is both deft and resonant. Grinder has created a distinctive melody and a track which grows on the listener as it progresses. Inaction, meanwhile, has a particular context. It

    was written as a lament for Trayvon Martin and the inadequacy of the official response to the circumstances of his death. It opens with a muted trombone solo and becomes an atmospheric piece of mood music, low-key and sombre. Grinder is probing yet pensive on his instrument while Ethan Helm's suggestive guitar solo is reminiscent of the great Bill Frisell. I liked the neat work of Matt Honor on drums, too. Staged is short and sweet, with a nice lilt. Grinder is impressively smooth on trombone and is accompanied by Trujillo's mellow guitar. The dextrous Honor continues to maintain his high standard on drums. The very best is saved until last, though. Monk's tune, Reflections, first recorded in 1952 by the master himself is given a refreshing make-over and is played with aplomb and flair by all concerned. Excellent.

    As for the rest, New And Happy is a lively piece of collective music-making, featuring some nifty counterpoint. 5 Steps is a busy offering with Grinder's technique to the fore. Belly Up is very listenable with everyone getting a chance to shine but the Helm/Grinder front line just stealing the show. Deciduous fairly zips along and is the nearest to free-jazz the listener will find on the disc. The title track, Farallon, gives Stinson the opportunity for a bass solo as well as a romantic-cum-melancholy contribution on guitar by Trujillo and the yearning trombone of the leader, which evokes his almost mystical connection to the islands.

    No less a figure than Slide Hampton has referred to Grinder as “an important future voice in jazz trombone”. His skill in composition and his versatility as a musician on this disc supports that judgement. Furthermore, his choice of musical companions is admirable. Grinder's ambition was to speak to hearts and heads via this album. See what you think!

    James Poore


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