David Finck doesn’t follow the usual bassist-as-leader structures in his new album, BASSically Jazz. I’m not saying that a bassist leader, or even a drummer leader, has to follow a specific set of rules when composing or arranging, and Finck is even described in the liner notes as spending “much of his 40-year career exploring the solo potential of an instrument that is usually the unobtrusive heartbeat of the rhythm section.” That sounds like the approach a bassist would take, deep in the inner structure of the music and not at all flamboyant. Innovative, yes. Wild, no.
David Finck, however, isn’t that kind of bassist. I wouldn’t even call him a bassist’s bassist, even though he’s dedicated to extract so many unique sounds from his instrument. Finck is, for lack of a better word, a romantic bassist, one who adores songwriting, one who knows the importance of showmanship while performing. BASSically Jazz is a rich, swinging album performed by an octet all working as one, providing unique takes on such classics as “Alfie,” “The Summer Knows” and even “When I Look in Your Eyes” from Doctor Doolittle. Sultry guest vocals from both Linda Eder and Alexis Cole add to the album’s depth by mixing it up and taking chances.
The heart of BASSically Jazz can be found in the interplay between David Finck’s bass and Joe Locke‘s vibraphone. These two have been playing together for a long time, and it shows. When these two take the lead, in tandem, they achieve a timeless and almost cinematic quality that sounds so reassured, so firmly placed into the past. Finck is attracted to arrangements that feature quick chord progressions and sudden shifts in tone, but the warmth that is shared between these two experienced musicians preserves the lyrical touches in a fascinating and authentic way.
Still, deep down this is David Finck’s album. Perhaps he is the ultimate bassist’s bassist, because when you dig in and focus on the “voices” he creates, you know he’s not trying to be anyone else but David Finck. This is a bassist who’s been hunched over his instrument for a very long time, but he manages to sound like a musician who is still capable of surprising himself with subtle invention. BASSically Jazz is an album that rewards on many levels, but spend at least one complete listen on Finck, and you’ll discover why he’s considered one of the best in the business.