Moving Still is the eagerly-awaited follow-up to trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson’s Moment and the Message (Pi 2013).
Well regarded among fellow musicians for his ability to negotiate complex musical material and his decidedly personal sound and improvisational style, Moving Still is filled with enthralling twists and turns, a hallmark of Finlayson’s compositional style.
Finlayson’s band, Sicilian Defense, is named after the popular chess opening counter move, and most of the composition titles on Moving Still are also allusions to some aspect of the game of chess, which he plays with great zeal.
This latest iteration of the band includes guitarist Miles Okazaki, who is also a member of Steve Coleman’s Five Elements and with whom Finlayson has played with consistently for ten years.
As usual, there is far more to his work than might readily appear. Even though the pieces move forward with a clear thrust, instrumental voices rarely move in unison and counterpoint almost always holds sway.
This is apparent on Flank and Center, where the melody utilizes hockets – a series of three and two notes played in turn by three voices, a pointillistic effect that is carried throughout the piece.
Space And is based on a traditional bell pattern of the Dagomba of present-day Northern Ghana while Folk Song is inspired by an Afro Cuban melody from the song cycle devoted to Oshun, a deity that reflects one of the manifestations of God in the Ifá and Yoruba religions.
Cap vs Nim is based on a celebrated chess match between the grandmasters José Raúl Capablanca and Aron Nimzowitsch wherein Finlayson assigned harmonic values to positions on the board with the melody determined by the origin and destination of each move.