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James Finn Trio: Faith in a Seed

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Evaluating free jazz is an even more uncertain, more subjective endeavor than most art criticism. My thesis, notwithstanding, is that Kalaparush Maurice McIntyre’s Paths to Glory is a strikingly successful example of the free-jazz genre and James Finn’s Faith in a Seed is not.

The latter features tenor saxophonist Finn, bassist Dominic Duval and drummer Warren Smith. On eight tracks (minimal, transitory “seeds”), Finn walks out on a tightrope, cuts the rope and tries to conjure himself aloft in free air, alone except for the buffeting gusts of energy blown upward by Duval and Smith. To sustain interest for an hour in this format could not be more creatively challenging, and Finn never sells his mission short. He is a passionate, tireless improviser who fearlessly pursues every imaginative option that presents itself. But he often sounds like a man pounding on a door that won’t open. His endless croaking bursts rarely accumulate into anything compelling or attractive. Exacerbation is not the same as power.

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