Jonathan Finlayson

Finlayson was born in Berkeley, CA in 1982. He began playing the trumpet when he was ten years old in the Oakland public schools. Robert Porter, a Bay Area legend and trumpeter of the bebop era, taught Finlayson. He was often seen with Porter at his gigs around town as well as sitting in on the Sunday night jam session at The Bird Cage. After graduating from the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, Finlayson studied with Jimmy Owens, Eddie Henderson and Cecil Bridgewater. Finlayson is a disciple of the saxophonist/composer/conceptualist Steve Coleman, having joined his band Five Elements in 2000 at the age of 18. Coleman said that Jonathan has always had music in him. He was one of those prodigy cats. “I believe I heard him play around 13 years ago, and again in 2000 during a workshop I gave at Berkeley High School. I also met Ambrose Akinmusire, the drummer. Ambrose and Jonathan began to visit my crib to discuss music, music theory, and history. Jonathan offered to play a week-long gig for me in Chicago in the following year. We have been playing together eversince.” Finlayson’s challenging music is based on the same rhythmically complex terrain that Coleman’s but has puzzle-like musical forms. Finlayson, a keen chess player, named his band Sicilian Defense in honor of the most popular chess opening move. Many of his compositions have a sense deductive logic. The musical transcription of the eight most popular moves of chess opens, such as “Ruy Lopez”, is an example. The improvisations are also reminiscent of a game, in which the back-and-forth dialogue between the soloists mirrors the countermoves and moves of two chess players. “Circus” is based on a childhood memory. It was inspired by the music of Henry Threadgill. Finlayson performed with Threadgill in Threadgill’s premiere of “Dimples” (2012). “Tensegrity,” a study of counterpoint, is harmonically similar to the Johann Sebastian Bach music. Finlayson’s artistry, which he has developed over a decade as a member the Five Elements, has earned him a reputation for being one of jazz’s most highly-regarded trumpeters. Steve Lehman, a musician who has had extensive contact with Finlayson, says that Jonathan is the most distinctive trumpet player his generation. He is unique because of the purity of his sound and the way he moves around the instrument. He is a musician with so much musical ability. He can do anything, whether it be challenging rhythms, alternate tunings or just plain feel. Mary Halvorson, guitarist, says that Jonathan’s trumpet tone is stunning: it is razor-clear and yet vulnerable. His unique sound is instantly identifiable thanks to his extensive harmonic and intervallic logics. His ability to seamlessly navigate complex written material, chordal structures, and wide-open sounding terrain with equal command is something that continually amazes me.” Sicilian Defense is comprised of some of the best young jazz musicians. David Virelles, a pianist, is a member in good saxophonists like Ravi Coltrane, Mark Turner and Chris Potter. Wide critical acclaim was given to his 2012 album Continuum. Miles Okazaki, guitarist, was included in The New York Times’ best of 2012 list. The bandleader Keith Witty is also a bassist. He has a new album with the collective trio Thiefs. Damion Reid, drummer, has been a part of highly-respected albums featuring the likes Rudresh Mahanthappa and Steve Lehman. This outfit is perfectly suited for Finlayson’s complex and ever-shifting compositional strategies. Moment and the message marks the debut of Jonathan Finlayson, a bandleader. He has been a sought-after sideman for over a decade and was also an apprentice in Steve Coleman’s Five Elements. He has waited patiently, unlike many other young musicians who rush to put out albums. He is a leader and the only horn on the front line. His compositions and leadership bring out the best in his band mates. Finlayson is now ready to take the spotlight. from

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