Friday, January 17, 2014


Ian Finkelstein (photo by Karen Fox)
At the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe Thursday evening, pianist Ian Finkelstein closed out a two night run with his new trio drummer Alex White and bassist Yosef Deas. The trio played a bunch of standards such as Body and Soul, In Walked Bud, and Sandu. Finkelstein put this trio together Tuesday, but they sounded as if they’ve played together for years. 

Deas has the most mileage. During the early 2000’s, he was a key member of the then popular jazz group Urban Transport. And White is a promising drummer feeling his way around Detroit's jazz scene. When I heard him for the first time a few years back he was bombastic and flashy. He's matured into a serious drummer capable of powering a band.

Last night, White showed signs he’s become a tasteful drummer like Detroit drummers Djallo Djakate and the late Bert Myrick. There was a moment when White was playful. On New Dog, a Finkelstein original, White gave the melody a swift kick in the ass.

Finkelstein has grown into a marvelous jazz pianist, which isn't surprising. Pianists Tad Weed and Geri Allen were his mentors. At 23, Finkelstein seems comfortable and confident leading a band at a major jazz venue. He has great admiration for jazz standard compositions.  

Besides, he knows how to update the standards without compromising their poignancy. Herbie Hancock is his main influence. Listening to Finkelstein play standards warmly and imaginatively made me wonder if Barry Harris and Billy Taylor were also influences.

All night long, Finkelstein conducted himself and the trio as if playing the Dirty Dog was major, which it is because only the top national and regional jazz musicians are booked there. Finkelstein’s trio could be one of the best in Michigan someday if he figures out how to keep the trio together. 
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