A ‘Northern Perspective’ from the Abbie Finn Trio

It says in the liner notes for the album Northern Perspectives that “Abbie Finn began her jazz journey performing with a local big band. She went on to study Jazz at Leeds College of Music and then moved to London to receive a masters from Trinity Laban. In 2018 she performed in London’s West End in Night School at The Pinter Theatre. After this she moved back to the North-East and is currently working as a drummer, composer and educator.” The album is a homage to the people of the North-East of England who welcomed her, and her trio, with open arms to the jazz scene there.

Alongside drummer Abbie Finn are tenor saxophonist Harry Keeble and double bass player Paul Grainger. Five of the ten tracks on the album are written by members of the trio, with the album opening with the Abbie Finn penned ‘Walkabout’ on which the playing is assured from beginning to end. The tune is a good one and certainly gives ample opportunity for Harry Keeble and Abbie Finn to show what they are about all the while being anchored by the bass of Paul Grainger. Cole Porter’s ‘Night and Day’ (see video at the end of the review) follows at a brisk pace and certainly gets the toes tapping. There is some wonderful interplay between sax and drums in the later half of the tune, which eventually goes into a long fade out before the album moves on to another jazz standard in ‘There Will Never be Another You’.

Tracks four and five are written by the Trio (track four), and Abbie Finn and Harry Grainger (track five) respectively. ‘Waltz for Tony’ is a nicely written tune that gives space to the notes played and allows the number to breathe. Everything in the track is toned down and that is why I think it works so well. ‘North Meets South’ is, for me, the standout track of the album. I really enjoyed the structure of the tune, the break in the middle with the pared-down playing between drums and bass is simple but very well executed. Harry Keeble’s sax is sure-footed throughout and no one player dominates but each has an opportunity to play their part in making this tune work for the listener.

The Don Grolnick tune ‘Nothing Personal’ is perhaps the most contemporary tune of the album in style. It is also the tune where the tonal range of the sax is given its chance to show through. Again, the trio playing is good throughout as it is on Chick Corea’s ‘Windows’, which comes in as track seven. The melodic line of the sax is punctuated throughout by drummer Abbi Finn but without disrupting the flow of the tune and all the while Paul Grainger’s basis solid beneath the other two players.

‘Tangerine’ pick up the pace and brings the album back round to the start in terms of jazz styling. There is a wonderful bass solo with the brush work of Abbie Finn adding just the right level of support to round the section out – of the tunes not written by the trio I would put this one at the top. Harry Keeble’s tune ‘Ginnungagap’ has a darker, more reflective tone to it than any other track on the album, which is not surprising as it: 

“appears as the primordial void in the Norse creation account. The Gylfaginning states: Ginnungagap, the Yawning Void … which faced toward the northern quarter, became filled with heaviness, and masses of ice and rime, and from within, drizzling rain and gusts; but the southern part of the Yawning Void was lighted by those sparks and glowing masses which flew out of Múspellheim.”

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ginnungagap

It might also be considered the sister track to North Meets South. However you might like to view this track, it is very well written, strong and emotive – it is one of those tunes that deserves to be listened to, reflected upon and then listened to again.

In ‘Umlazi Morning’, written by bassist Paul Grainger, has an African vibe to it with its use of repeating phrases first played by on the bass and then picked up and continued by saxophonist Harry Keeble. Abbie Finn then takes her turn while being supported by the bass and so it goes on throughout the tune. I enjoyed this track and consider it to be a fitting end to the album as a whole.

Norther Perspective is a good solid introduction to the Abbie Fin Trio. The album works well in its structure with a good mix of original tunes and covers. On my first listen through I did think that the album could benefit from a more varied tone from the sax but on subsequent hearings that viewpoint has mellowed. I should also like to say that I very much appreciated the drum solos from Abbie Finn in that they did not detract from the melodic line. Having listened to the studio production, I should very much like to hear this band live and I should also like to hear more of their own compositions – as good as their cover work is.

Northern Perspective was released November 1, 2020 and can be found at abbiefinntrio.bandcamp.com/album/northern-perspective.

Album track list: 1, Walkabout – 2, Night and Day – 3, There Will Never be Another You – 4, Waltz for Tony – 5, North Meets South – 6, Nothing Personal – 7, Windows – 8, Tangerine – 9, Ginnungagap – 10, Umlazi Morning.

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