A top jazz guitarist based in upstate New York, Joe Finn has a mellow tone (a little reminiscent of Jimmy Raney), creates harmonically adventurous improvisations, and swings at every tempo.
The COVID pandemic made it very hard for jazz musicians, but for As Luck Would Have It, the guitarist’s seventh release as a leader. Joe Finn took advantage of the fact that the top players living in his geographical area were available. His sidemen, vibraphonist Mike Benedict, pianist-keyboardist Wayne Hawkins, bassist Mike Lawrence, and drummer Pete Sweeney, have not only had extensive experience playing with major musicians but have also led bands of their own. On ten of the guitarist’s originals, they form an attractive group sound and their performances are full of subtle and inventive interplay.
The opener, “The Good Word,” is a relaxed minor-toned medium-tempo piece that introduces the quintet and (as is true on all of the other selections) features inventive and concise guitar, vibes, and piano solos. “As Though I Had Wings” is an attractive jazz waltz which hints at “Inchworm” in spots. The uptempo “As Luck Would Have It” (with Lawrence particularly prominent in the ensembles and Sweeney taking a fine solo) is followed by “Elan,” a slow ballad that one could imagine pianist John Lewis and the Modern Jazz Quartet playing.
“Come What May” a happy piece utilizing the chord changes of Charlie Parker’s “Confirmation,” is followed by the harmonically complex but still cooking “Purity Of Essence,” the atmospheric and moody “Dedalus,” and the swinging “Asymmetrical Reflections.” The CD concludes with one of the strongest original melodies of the program (“Born Yesterday”) and the joyful “Blue Ullom.”
Each of the ten performances are enjoyable with Joe Finn displaying an original style that, while connected to the jazz tradition, does not sound like any of his predecessors. The musicians all were clearly inspired by each other’s presence and quite happy to be playing together. The result is a high-quality set of music that is easily recommended to anyone who enjoys modern straight ahead jazz.
Jazz Guitar Life would like to thank Scott Yanow for his time, commitment and dedication to the music and its players!
Scott Yanow is a jazz journalist/historian and author of 11 books including The Great Jazz Guitarists.
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