Dreams, Visions, Illusions
Release Date: April 14, 2023
Label: Outside In Music
Trombonist, composer, arranger, producer and Outside In Music label founder Nick Finzer presents his new sextet album Dreams, Visions, Illusions.
A follow-up to his 2021 album Out of Focus and spiritual successor to his 2020 sextet recording Characters, Dreams, Visions, Illusions represents the ultimate expression of his long-running sextet, which features tenor saxophonist and bass clarinetist Lucas Pino, guitarist Alex Wintz, pianist Glenn Zalenski, bassist Dave Baron and drummer Jimmy Macbride.
The inspired album was the result of a New Jazz Works grant courtesy of Chamber Music America, an American not-for-profit that provides a variety of resources to small-ensemble practitioners. The program is funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, which directly supports the performing arts via generous grants.
“It had been a goal of mine for a long time to get that particular grant; I’d written five records’ worth of music beforehand and tried with all those different ones to try to get the grant,” Finzer says. Happily, the trombonist succeeded, and pledged to push his sextet format to find new inspirations.
Running with the creative possibilities as bestowed by this boon, Finzer crafted a thematically and psychologically penetrating work — one that explores the role of the muse in creative inspiration. As per Dreams, Visions, Illusions’ title, Finzer trisected this concept and shone it through the lens of creative and professional labor.
“At one point, it’s just a Dream — a thing you think maybe you can do,” he says. “And that’s the Visions part: ‘You’re playing with people; you’re getting closer.” As for Illusions: “There’s a circular nature to the journey.”
To Finzer, there’s a spiritual escape route from this 24/7 hustle — one that just about every NYC jazz musician is intimately familiar with. “I’m trying to aspire to that — some days succeeding, and some days failing,” Finzer says with a laugh, coming to terms with his overall career arc. “It took me a long time to get to the realization of what this particular life can be.”
Dreams, Visions, Illusions’ searching opener, “To Dream a Bigger Dream” is a call to move past the entrapments of capitalism’s unscratchable itch.
“As anyone who grew up in the 1990’s might remember, the overwhelming narrative of society was one of achievement — what college could you get into, what dream career would you pursue, and what was your purpose in life?” Finzer explains. “How could you fulfill that purpose through a meaningful relationship with your career?”
In A Love Supreme terms, “Aspirations and Convictions” is something of a “Resolution” to the opener’s “Acknowledgement.” “When you set out on your romanticized journey, you aspire to overcome, despite the world telling you not to do it,” Finzer says. “Your dreams cloud your mind’s clarity and you’re passionate about your mission, so why wouldn’t it happen?”
Finzer meant the introspective “Follow Your Heart” as something of a deconstruction of the titular cliché: “This track explores the dichotomy of these choice making moments in our lives… the journey of making those decisions is tumultuous, but then you just have to jump.”
The ambling “I Thought I Should Take The Road Less Traveled” faces down the difficult choices each creative person must face. “When considering which way to go in life, we often heed the advice of those who have come before,” Finzer explains. “But when there are no role models left, where do we turn?”
“But I Did What They Said” pursues an “edgier energy” and “snarky attitude.” “[It’s] about doing what you were told to do,” Finzer says, “but things don’t always work out for the rule followers.” The counterweight is the following track, “To the ‘Top,’” which reflects “good news and good experiences along the way.”
This Campbellian journey reaches its emotional apoetheosis with the seemingly weightless “Vision or Mirage?,” which Finzer highlights for its luminous piano part from Zalenski. “This one embodies to me, the feeling when you realize you might have been wrong,” Finzer says. “You might not be able to tell the difference between what you think is real and what the rest of the world feels is real.”
The trickling “Waking Up” is a call for clear-eyed perception among the noise. “Just because we want something to be a certain way, does not mean it is that way, or that you can change it to be so,” the trombonist admits. “Some things just are the way they are.”
Dreams, Visions, Illusions concludes with the percolating “Now, Then and When.” Notable for its Kenny Garrett-esque groove, the track sends the listener off on an optimistic note. “[I’m] trying to remember that the muse that set us off on our path in the first place just wanted us to make music,” Finzer says.
Few jazz albums turn inward and question the emotional landscape of professional music-making. Finzer, a celebrated musician and label owner in equal measure, is more acutely aware of this perpetual, often thankless grind — the good, bad and ugly parts — than most.
And come April 14, there’s a better way — and a clearer looking-glass into the creative soul.
Dreams, Visions, Illusions by Nick Finzer and Hear & Now has been made possible with support from Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works program funded through the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
"American trombonist Nick Finzer is known for bringing passionate lyricism and keen harmonic excursions to his compositional style." Full review here.
SLANG OF AGES
"The resulting album sounds like a band that has been playing together forever." Read the full album review here.
MAKING A SCENE
"You’ll rarely encounter an album that explores the thought process and various emotional/mental phases of making music." Read the review here.
BEBOP SPOKEN HERE
“..Finzer is one of the best jazz trombone players that I've heard on the current scene..” Read the review here.
THE BIG TAKEOVER
“Finzer’s longtime sextet shifts from point to point with graceful ease, and the leader himself shines with smooth riffs and tasteful solos.” Read the complete review here.
NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD
"Nick Finzer has produced a surprisingly original and adventurous album here as a jazz auteur." Read the full review in the May 2023 issue here.
"Not all questions, musical ones in particular, are guaranteed to have answers, but Finzer & Co. show how jazz can at least be a repository for collective communing." Review here.
"Finzer leads the way on 10 thoughtful originals that alternately swing fervently and conjure up intimate, expressive moods." Read the 4.5 star review here.
"Finzer’s titles provide a strong indication of what he’s thinking about while composing." View full review here.
DEE DEE McNEIL
"It’s got one of those melodies that makes you want to hum along." View full review here.
"The trombone extraordinaire Nick Finzer is surrounded by some esteemed talent for these 10 creative jazz tunes that never sit in one place for very long." View the full review here.
D. OSCAR GROOMES
O'S PLACE JAZZ MAGAZINE
Trombonist, composer Nick Finzer leads a sextet over ten selections divided into Dreams, Visions & Illusions. The band includes Lucas Pino (t-sax, b-cl), Alex Wintz (g), Glenn Zaleski (p), Dave Boston (b), and Jimmy MacBride (d). The resulting music is mostly reflective. We liked the spirited “Follow Your Heart”, “Now, Then, and When”, and bubbly “I Thought I Should Take The Road Less Traveled” (or as written on the jewel case, I thought I took the road…). Otherwise, it’s as nebulous as the title suggests.
Award winning composer, arranger, producer, educator and trombonist Nick Finzer is one of the most dynamic musicians of the millennial generation." Check out this awesome review here.