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Matt Flinner Quartet: Walking On the Moon

While certain instruments just seem to have an innate beauty to them-the piano and the saxophone come to mind-others don’t have it quite so easy. That being said, the mandolin, because of its treble-heavy sound, to me was always an instrument that needed to prove itself. It has done so before in the hands of David Grisman and Sam Bush, and now once again in the hands of Matt Flinner.

Walking on the Moon, the new release from the Matt Flinner Quartet, provides a showcase not only for Flinner’s incredible chops but also for his thoughtful and sometimes quirky compositions. His technical wizardry is on display from the opening track, “Men From Boise,” and as is the case throughout most of the tunes, Flinner’s jazz sensibility and phrasing are unmistakable. Other uptempo tunes such as “Exfoliator” and “Walk the Plank” build off of the energy set forth in the opener, and they are well balanced by slower, more nuanced tunes such as “Ice Queen” and guitarist Gawain Mathews’ “Troubled Sleep.”

Flinner also gives ample room for his supporting cast to stretch, and Mathews, bassist Sam Bevan and drummer Aaron Johnston do not disappoint. Mathews and Flinner manage to find a balance so that the presence of two strummed instruments is never overbearing, with each putting in time as the accompanist or soloist. The arrangement of Ellington’s “Caravan,” superimposed over the bass line from “Cissy Strut,” works surprisingly well, and Bevan’s heavy bass work provides a strong foundation not only on this track but also throughout the album. The title track, which is indeed a cover of Sting’s “Walking on the Moon,” is beautifully arranged and has a wonderfully haunting and meditative quality to it.

Flinner’s current quartet has a distinct sound and cohesion, and with Walking on the Moon Flinner continues his reign as perhaps the most exciting and creative mandolin player on the scene today.

Originally Published