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Music du Jour
Artist: The Matt Flinner Trio
Label: Compass Records
Time: 12 tracks / 51:50
On Music du Jour you can hear the buzz of the bass strings as the notes vibrate out of your speaker, the faint squeak of the fleshy part of a fingertip as it slides from one guitar fret to another, the ‘chuck’ of a chord being dampened by a hand across mandolin strings… In other words, you hear real human beings playing real music on real instruments. Nothing here had to be plugged in, programmed, or EQ’d. The Matt Flinner Trio is about acoustic jazz, which is well accomplished by Eric Thorin on bass, Ross Martin on acoustic guitar, and Mr. Flinner himself on mandolin.
It would be almost impossible to review a mandolin-based acoustic trio without mentioning David Grisman, the mando-man himself - and Flinner’s playing is certainly in the same league, although this trio (on this album) is stylistically a bit less fiery than most of Grisman’s work. Still, on _Music du Jour_ we have three outstanding musicians performing original compositions with style, class and a heavy dose of good taste – it’s hard to ask for more these days.
A word about those compositions – the group decided to write, rehearse, and perform new songs in a same-day challenge – debuting new material on tour on the same day it was written! These twelve tracks represent the best of those efforts. The compositions are often surprisingly challenging – especially the work of bass-player Thorin – and the playing is impeccable.
Although the playing and writing itself is often melodic, really great melodies don’t come easily or by the clock, so some of the songs tend not to stick to your musical ribs even though they’re fine musical work-outs. Of course, there are exceptions, like the neat, melodic little track, “Cobalt,” by guitar player, Ross Martin. Martin’s “In the Golden Zone,” also offered a more textured, slow piece with some nice interior melodies and splendid interplay between guitar and mandolin. On “Tell Me One More Time,” Martin really steps up to the plate and delivers a hot course of blue grass-inspired jazz with great runs and riffs (often in tandem with Flinner’s mandolin) and tricky start/stop/start-again timing. The trio pulls out all of the stops and really comes to life on this one, which Grisman probably wishes he had in his own bag of tricks.
“Atomic City,” by Flinner, neatly (and generously) cooks up to a tense plateau of bass and acoustic guitar, with mandolin adding some nice riffs without overtaking the song – it shows the creativity and songwriting skill that was less evident in his opening track, the well-played but unmemorable, “Inferno Real.”
To my ears, it’s Thorin, however, that provides the most challenging and interesting compositions, such as “Free Circus,” with its orchestral form and use of dissonance. His more classically-composed, "The Blossom,” stands out along with his swinging “Stomp Hat,” which has interesting timing and a strong melodic feel.
Music du Jour might actually be too accurate a title for this collection of tracks that certainly will satisfy your musical palate while you’re listening, but might not compel you to re-visit the menu on a regular basis. I’d love to hear these guys swing on some standards, or even on some well-written contemporary pieces, where their improvisational skills could shine (assuming that they’ve got the chops – and I’m betting that they’ve got ‘em). Still, these are twelve very well-recorded pieces of acoustic jazz that certainly are well-worth your time, if not your sustained attention.
Wallpaper jazz? No – not at all. There’s an amazing degree of composition in these songs which, after all, are still just a few steps removed from improvised work, having each been created and realized within a 24 hour period. Imagine what they could do if they really sat down and gave it some serious time?