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Nick Finzer brings philosophical perspective to jazz on 'Dreams, Visions, Illusions'


Over more than a century of jazz history, composers have dealt with every aspect of relationships (“My One and Only Love”), special times and places (“April in Paris”) and a variety of feelings (“Mood Indigo”). But many of today’s jazz artists are reaching beyond standard themes in a more philosophical way. A case in point is “Dreams, Visions, Illusions,” the new album by Eastman School of Music graduate Nick Finzer.

Since moving to New York in 2010, Finzer has forged a career as a trombonist, composer and arranger. He’s also the founder of Outside In Music, a record label boasting dozens of releases. But his entrepreneurship has not dimmed his desire to express his own musical vision. (Finzer plays at the Rochester International Jazz Festival on Thursday, June 29.)

Finzer’s titles provide a strong indication of what he’s thinking about while composing. From the first searching tune, “To Dream A Bigger Dream,” through compositions like “I Thought I Should Take The Road Less Traveled” and “I Did What They Said,” Finzer attempts to translate his philosophical thoughts into musical statements.

It doesn’t seem Finzer would mind if beautiful songs like “Aspirations and Convictions” evoke other responses in the listener. The same can be said for the gorgeously wistful “Visions or Mirage.” Although he is outstanding on trombone throughout, “Dreams, Visions, Illusions” proves to be more of a showcase for Finzer’s compositions. He wrote and arranged all 10 tracks, beautifully exploiting the tonal palette of his sextet.

Rather than produce a trombone-centered album, Finzer generously showcases his bandmates: Lucas Pino, tenor saxophone and bass clarinet; Alex Wintz, guitar; Glenn Zalenski, piano; Dave Baron, bass; and Jimmy Macbride, drums.

On “Follow Your Heart,” an up-tempo tune, Finzer, Zalenski and Wintz take adventurous solos on trombone, piano and guitar respectively. Whether or not the album makes you think about your own choices in life, it’s a strong musical statement start to finish.

Ron Netsky is a contributing writer for CITY. Feedback on this article can be directed to CITY Editor Leah Stacy at [email protected].