Honed by five years deeply immersed in the tenor/organ scene in Harlem, the outstanding guitarist/composer Matthew Finck formed his remarkable jazz/funk ensemble Fat Mink in 2005. Gigging with the group, heavy educational commitments, being a much sought after sideman in ensembles of many genres, and co-leading the Matthew Finck/Jonathan Ball Project, have all put recording the blazing ensemble on the back burner. Finally, the group’s long awaited first album Fat Mink is now available.
With the group’s original drummer Mike Nappi’s and new electric bassist Dave Livolsi’s inspired creativity locking down the intensely rhythmic groove, Fat Mink explores four of the group’s most popular pieces along with three new works written for this date – all of them from the endlessly fertile depths of Matthew’s compositional talents. Adding to the delightful brew is the participation on three tracks by Matthew’s longtime collaborator, tenor saxophonist Jonathan Ball.
“The compositions and solos pay homage to the guitarists/bands I've been inspired by throughout my life – Eddie Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, Robben Ford, Jimmy Page, John Scofield, Wayne Krantz, Pat Metheny – there are simply too many to name… but these compositions reflect the many influences I've had and the effect they've had on my playing and my music."
While the full scope of Matthew’s musical expression crosses into so many styles, the focus here is on unbridled groove music in both the hardcore instrumental funk and soul jazz traditions. From rollicking scorchers to heartfelt soul ballads, all built around the always imaginative nucleus of Matthew’s extraordinary guitar explorations, Fat Mink is a scintillating experience from beginning to end.
Despite the consistent focus of the style, Matthew’s compositions cover a full range of emotions and colors, but never sacrificing the essence of groove that is the music’s core while providing ideal frameworks for his brilliant solos. From the powerfully funky and relentlessly rocking Flexible that opens the album, through the punchy, suspended rhythms and highly expressive Sly Stone-ish wah-wah funk drawl of the closing track Minkstinct, this album will keep you on your feet and “on the one" from start to finish.
In between are the alternatively evocative and hard-rocking Creep, with a touch of Santana on the head and a healthy dose of Jimi in the wailing solo; the infectiously syncopated smoker 7&7, closing with tension-filled guitar chords framing a terrific drum solo; and the three cuts graced by Jonathan Ball’s tenor. The title tune Fat Mink, a rapid-fire scorcher with a swirling theme is fired with wailing guitar and wah-electrified – and electrifying – tenor sax; the beautiful ballad Self-Portrait featured plaintive tenor and full-bodied guitar on the theme, with passionate, exploratory and deeply emotional solos; and Brotherhood, aptly named for both the 15 year musical relationship and the deep aesthetic connection between Matthew and Jonathan, is a masterpiece of soulful expression.
With this long overdue first album, Fat Mink takes its rightful place on the front lines of deeply funkified celebration in jubilant fashion.
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