He may be the most versatile bassist in or out of jazz, fluent in the musical languages of Dizzy Gillespie, André Previn, Rosemary Clooney, George Michael, Phil Woods, Kenny Rankin, Hank Jones, Paquito D’Rivera, Ivan Lins, and Sheila Jordan, to name just a few of the stars on his resume. But David Finck has spent much of his 40-year career exploring the solo potential of an instrument that is usually the unobtrusive heartbeat of the rhythm section. His bass has as many textures and shadings as the human voice; it can tell stories without words.
This album, his third as a leader, is another testament to his exquisite and eclectic taste, to the lushness of his sound, and most of all to his passion for melody, a now-rare commodity in popular music. “I miss the richness of real songwriting,” says David.
It’s everywhere on this recording, however. The arrangements, all by David, are airy and spacious, meticulous but never fussy; they put the songs’ impeccable craftsmanship first. You’ll hear the lyrical improvising of musicians who are not afraid to play the tune.
Jazzmen love “The Song Is You” and “Old Devil Moon,” whose chords are fun to blow on. David’s versions are finely orchestrated gems of breezy swing. They feature the shimmering tone and buoyant rhythm of David’s favorite collaborator, the great vibraphonist Joe Locke. You’ll also hear Locke’s sometime pianist Jim Ridl, whose cool, light touch has fire in it; Cliff Almond, a drummer of grace and precision; and David, who solos as nimbly as if his bass were a guitar.
On two movie songs, he shows the full range of the sounds he can create. Rex Harrison sang “When I Look in Your Eyes” to a seal in Doctor Dolittle (1967); the song has since become a standard. David’s bowed solo “sings” as expressively as any vocal version. His plucked exploration of “Alfie” sheds light on the twisty pathways of what David calls “one of the most unusual pop songs of all time—very beautiful and melodic and complicated.”
He got to play “The Summer Knows” (Theme from Summer of ’42) with its composer, Michel Legrand, on piano; later he performed it with Broadway’s Linda Eder, who sings it here. Her emotional delivery of Marilyn and Alan Bergman’s words—which view summer as a sensual goddess of the sea—is matched by David, whose bass becomes a
Over the opening credits of Narcos, the Netflix series about Colombian drug cartels, an ironically sweet and simple theme, “Tuyo,” is played. The laid-back Latin rhythms are supplied by Kevin Winard, one of L.A.’s busiest drummer-percussionists; the cool trombone solo comes from Michael Davis, who spent years with the Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra, and Buddy Rich. The 1959 bossa nova “O Barquinho” (Little Boat) is a nod to the Brazilian music that has occupied much of David’s career. In the ensemble you’ll hear Bob Mann, a veteran guitarist whose collaborations encompass an eye-popping array of pop legends. “Bob, who is an outstanding soloist, is featured here as an integral part of the rhythm section,” explains David. “His nylon string accompaniment adds the perfect texture to four tracks.”
The album’s other guest vocalist is Alexis Cole, a much-respected, Manhattan-based jazz singer with a velvety alto and solid musicianship. She gives a fresh, no-frills reading of “Bluesette,” by the late Belgian harmonica player Toots Thielemans. “It’s an almost-perfect song; the melodic and harmonic content are delightful,” says David. “I enjoy the way the arrangement begins as a jazz waltz and morphs into a samba... kind of sneaks into it.” Cole also sings “I Love You So,” one of David’s rare forays into composing. This playful tune, which isn’t easy to sing, sprang out of a practice session in which David was experimenting with changing keys rapidly. Witty ensemble writing and a clever vamp help make this effort a winner.
David sings even less than he composes, but “some songs have to be sung,” he says. His singing is pitched conversation, cuddly and charming; and you’ll hear it on Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen’s “All My Tomorrows,” introduced in 1959 by
Frank Sinatra, one of David’s idols.
John Coltrane’s “Moment’s Notice” is a whirlwind of chord changes attached to one of the catchier tunes in bebop. David’s version is lilting, not frantic; it swings without breaking a sweat. The piano-and-vibes unison lines bring to mind the George Shearing Quintet, while David’s solo is a model of fluidity and dead-on pitch. Clearly bop is in his vocabulary too—“but at the end of the day, I still want to play melodically. Like all my albums, this one is about music the way I want to hear it. It’s
not all jazz but it’s basically a jazz record. That’s why we called itBASSically Jazz.”
—James Gavin, New York City, 2019
[James Gavin is a two-time winner of ASCAP’s Deems Taylor-Virgil Thomson Award for excellence in music journalism. His books include biographies of Peggy Lee, Chet Baker, and Lena Horne.]
PLAYERS AND INSTRUMENTS:
David Finck - Bass
Joe Locke - Vibes
Jim Ridl - Piano
Cliff Almond - Drums
Ali Ryerson - Flute
Bob Mann - Guitar
Kevin Winard - Percussion
Mike Davis - Trombone
Linda Eder on “The Summer Knows”
Alexis Cole on “I Love You So” and “Bluesette”
TRACKS AND TIMES
1. Old Devil Moon 4:39
2. O Barquinho 4:54
3.The Summer Knows (feat. Linda Eder) 4:10
4. Moment’s Notice 4:59
5. Tuyo (Theme From Narcos) 3:41
6. I Love You So (feat. Alexis Cole) 3:40
7.When I Look In Your Eyes 4:05
8.The Song Is You 4:50
9. Alfie 4:10
10. Bluesette (feat. Alexis Cole) 4:41
11.Walkin’ My Baby Back Home 3:57
12. All My Tomorrows 4:50