A reliably swinging, in-demand jazz bassist who has also logged his share of Brazilian and Latin gigs over the past 20 years, David Finck plays it strictly straightahead on his long overdue debut as a leader, surrounded by such stellar sidemen as vibraphonist Joe Locke, pianist Tom Ranier and veteran drummer (and former Bill Evans sideman) Joe La Barbera. They open with Ranier’s loping “I Know,” a soulful, strutting number that allows Locke to dig deep into his bluesier side on a highly expressive solo. Finck’s engaging jazz waltz “New Valley” is a breezy number right out of the Vince Guaraldi book while the quartet’s inventive 5/4 take on “Nature Boy” puts a new spin on that haunting classic ballad. Guests Jeremy Pelt on trumpet and Bob Sheppard on tenor sax join the core group on a boppish jaunt through Bevan Manson’s uptempo “Four Flags” and also on Finck’s upbeat, Brazilian-flavored “Look at You,” which is underscored by La Barbera’s brisk brushwork and the bassist’s authentic samba groove.
“Ballad for a Future Day” is a beautiful showcase for Locke, who opens the melancholy piece with an unaccompanied vibes solo before passing off the minor-key melody, first to Ranier’s piano and then on to Finck’s bowed bass. Locke also registers deep feeling on a sublime rendition of “For All We Know,” which Finck anchors with rich, woody tones on top of La Barbera’s sensitive brushwork. Finck grounds a Latinized rendition of Wayne Shorter’s “Black Eyes” with an authentic tumbao pulse on bass and he demonstrates some formidable walking, a la Ray Brown, on La Barbera’s “If Not for You,” a swinging ditty cleverly based on Gershwin’s “But Not for Me.” These consummate pros end with Cedar Walton’s classic “Firm Roots,” closing this satisfying session in swinging fashion.