FYC-Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance
American Nocturnes – Final Days of July, is a new album of original instrumental compositions by Grammy and Latin Grammy nominated composer John Finbury. Produced and arranged by Finbury, Bob Patton, and co-produced by Emilio D. Miler, American Nocturnes is a collection of eleven evocative pieces that spotlights the composer’s mastery in an intimate setting.
The instrumentation in this album is unorthodox with the addition of guitar, harmonica and accordion to cello and piano. The absence of percussion instruments gives the performances a more elastic sense of time, while the lyrical qualities of the melodies makes the composer’s reference to them as ‘songs’ most suitable. There are improvised segments in most of the pieces, often disguised as developments and ornamentations of the melodies, in music that is bound to fascinate listeners through a deeply emotional and delightful sway between jazz and chamber music.
“American Nocturnes – Final Days Of July” – Music by John Finbury
Featuring Tim Ray, Eugene Friesen, Claudio Ragazzi, Roni Eytan, Roberto Cassan & Vitor Gonçalves
American Nocturnes – Final Days of July, a new album of original compositions by Grammy and Latin Grammy nominated composer John Finbury, was released through Green Flash Music on May 1, 2020. Produced and arranged by Finbury, Bob Patton, and co-produced by Emilio D. Miler, American Nocturnes – Final Days of July is a collection of ten evocative pieces that spotlights the composer’s mastery in an intimate small ensemble setting.
It may come as something of a surprise to those familiar with Finbury’s previous releases in the Jazz idiom (including the 2020 Grammy Nominated “Sorte!), that American Nocturnes is far removed from the Latin themes that typify John’s recent albums. The absence of percussion instruments gives these performances a more elastic sense of time, while the lyrical qualities of the melodies makes the composer’s reference to them as ‘songs’ most suitable.
This is music that crosses genres and defies stylistic boundaries. It is classical and through-composed yet often leaves space and improvisational opportunity for the musicians, often disguised as developments and ornamentations of the melodies. It is music that is bound to fascinate listeners through a deeply emotional, delightful sway between jazz and chamber music. The instrumentation in this record is also unique, with the core duo of piano and cello joined by guitar, harmonica and accordion.
John enlisted a number of top-flight musicians to help him realize his vision for American Nocturnes. Tim Ray is, quite literally, a pianist’s pianist. An NEA grant recipient and Berklee College of Music faculty member, he is Tony Bennett’s current musical director and a longtime road companion to Lyle Lovett and Jane Siberry.
Cellist and four-time Grammy winner Eugene Friesen has vast credits including work with Dave Brubeck, Martin Sexton, Will Ackerman and the Paul Winter Consort. Jerusalem-born Roni Eytan holds the distinction of being the first harmonica player to have been accepted into the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz Performance. Guitarist Claudio Ragazzi is both a Grammy and Emmy winner and has performed at The Hollywood Bowl and Lincoln Center and with such legends as Gary Burton, Yo-Yo Ma, Branford Marsalis and Paquito D’Rivera. The album is dedicated to accordionist Roberto Cassan, a renowned accordionist, composer and teacher who, within a week of his playing on the sessions, died quite suddenly in his native Italy. The accordionist chair was thereafter occupied by Vitor Gonçalves, who’s been featured on NPR’s Jazz Night in America at Jazz Night at Lincoln Center as well as the Newport Jazz Festival and Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. Just last year, Vitor was the recipient of two
Grammy nominations: Best Large Jazz Ensemble (with Anat Cohen Tentet), and Best Latin Jazz Album (with John Finbury).
With these contemplative yet hopeful Nocturnes, recorded before the pandemic, Finbury may well have inadvertently composed the most fitting soundtrack for our time.
His earliest music education and influence came from his father Herb, a musician (violin) and one of the first jazz composition students at the Schillinger School in Boston, which would later become Berklee College Of Music. In his teenage years, John played rock & roll drums, most notably at the “The Bitter End” in New York City. In college, John studied classical piano and music theory and composition at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge and Boston University.
Seeking another connection to music, John ran a legendary movie house and concert hall in Salem, MA, hosting performances by BB King, Bonnie Raitt, Richard Thompson, REM, Eric Burton and The Animals, and Pat Metheny, among many others. In a parallel life, John has been a practicing attorney for 35 years, though you’ll never hear him refer to his law practice as a “day job”, but rather his other “profession.”
John married his lifelong muse Patty Brayden, who sings and is a frequent collaborator as a lyricist; they have often performed locally as part of the Jazz Sextet “Day For Night”. John’s old friend Ned Claflin (who has also worked with Madonna and Martin Sexton) is another important associate in the lyrics department.
In what he recognizes as his first professional commission as a composer, in 1979 John wrote and recorded a soundtrack for “Portraits from the 2 O’Clock Lounge”, a TV documentary by Fred Simon produced for WGBH Boston. The R&B and pop songs he wrote and recorded in the early 80s have garnered current critical attention, with many being acquired in 2014 by Fervor Records. This renewed interest in his music sparked a new era in John’s composing focused on his longstanding interest in the beautiful music of Brazil.
In October 2014 John released an EP of four original songs of Brazilian Jazz called “The Green Flash”. All four songs were nominated for The American Songwriting Awards in 2015, with “SambaDan” winning the award for Best Instrumental.
2015 saw the release of “Imaginário,” an album consisting of 11 original songs of Brazilian jazz featuring vocalist Marcella Camargo, accompanied by some of Boston’s finest musicians, including longtime members of Paquito D’Rivera’s band Oscar Stagnaro and Mark Walker, Tim Ray, and Grammy-winning guitarist Claudio Ragazzi.
In 2016, Finbury shocked the Latin Music scene when a cut from “Imaginário” called “A Chama Verde,” was nominated for a Latin Grammy for “Song Of The Year.”
In 2017, John released his second Brazilian jazz-infused album “Pitanga” with the same lineup, which received critical acclaim.
Finbury’s album “Sorte!”, in collaboration with Brazilian singer-songwriter Thalma de Freitas was released in May 2019. With music by John and lyrics and vocals by Thalma, they recorded six original songs at The Powerstation Studios in New York City, produced by Latin Grammy winner Emilio D. Miler, who assembled an All-Star band featuring Vitor Gonçalves, Chico Pinheiro, Duduka de Fonseca, John Patitucci, Rogerio Boccato and the legendary Airto Moreira. On November 21, 2019, “Sorte!” Was nominated for a 2020 Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Album.
In May 2020, John released two new albums of original music: American Nocturnes- Final Days Of July" presenting intimate chamber jazz instrumental music uniquely arranged for piano, cello, guitar, accordion, and harmonica, and a new Latin Jazz album, QUATRO, featuring Magos Herrera, Chano Domínguez, John Patitucci, and Antonio Sánchez.