If ever there were a bassist worthy of the “unsung hero” tag, it’s David Finck. His lyrical lines and firm sense of harmonic underpinning have helped add color, weight, shape, and dimension to the work of pianist Steve Kuhn, vocalist Rosemary Clooney, multi-reedist Paquito D’Rivera, trumpeter Claudio Roditi, and saxophonist Phil Woods. And that’s just a small sampling of his jazz associates. Finck has also been plenty busy in other realms during his four decades in the business, logging sessions with everybody from Rod Stewart to Portishead and Jon Secada to Peter, Paul & Mary. Given his sterling musicianship and beyond-expansive résumé, one question instantly arises: Why isn’t Finck better known beyond the world of insiders? Perhaps it has to do with his small output as a leader. Or maybe living below the surface is simply a bassist’s lot in life.
In any case, BASSically Jazz—only Finck’s third leader date—boasts numerous riches. The primo personnel list, which includes vibraphonist Joe Locke, pianist Jim Ridl, and drummer Cliff Almond, among others, lives up to expectations; the repertoire and arrangements prove classy and compelling; a pair of guest vocalists—Linda Eder and Alexis Cole—lend variety and added depth to the program; and the man in charge stylishly balances background and foreground roles with supreme skill. Whether holding things down during “Old Devil Moon,” melding with Locke on “O Barquinho,” adding rich arco work to “The Summer Knows” and “When I Look in Your Eyes,” or setting the scene for “Alfie,” Finck’s instrument remains a model of melodic purity and rhythmic perfection. This is some truly gratifying music from one of the bass world’s best.