Jim Rotondi – Finesse (ENG review)

Cellar – Street Date February 9th 2024
Jim Rotondi – Finesse

Here is an album of orchestral jazz that will inevitably make you think of film music, as it was still being made in the 80s. For his ninth album, Jim Rotondi pulled out all the stops, aided by a virtuoso orchestra conducted and arranged by Jakob Helling, all deeply immersed in the rich historical and musical tradition of Austria, where Rotondi currently resides and teaches. Rotondi also called upon his peers, the legendary trombonist Steve Davis, saxophonist Dick Oatts, and pianist Danny Grissett, who come from his prolific years spent in New York.
Ambiance! And yes, it’s all about ambiance, with numerous nods and references to past albums of various great jazz musicians. Sometimes it’s just with intentions, like in an introduction. For example, on the second track, the introduction reminds me of a Miles Davis album. The criteria for this genre are plentiful. The album’s title, Finesse, encapsulates the spirit required for this project and with which Rotondi approached the entire process. “I’m a musician known for recording projects straight out with small groups, in a less strictly organized style,” says Rotondi. “For me, this recording represents attention to every detail, hence the name Finesse.”
And that’s the case here. I dare not imagine the annotated orchestral scores in all directions, supporting an essential note or having an instrument start slightly offset. Such occurrences can be numerous, and that’s the delicate detail in the orchestra that allows the trumpet to reign at every moment, a task as essential as stage lighting. Finesse is also found in the precision of Jim Rotondi’s playing. After organizing an exhibition of his compositions performed with an orchestra and big band, Rotondi turned to Jakob Helling, an Austrian conductor, arranger, and trumpeter, who played an essential role in transforming this project into a recorded achievement. “After discussing the idea with composer/ arranger Jakob Helling, [he] got in touch with key musicians in Vienna, who were able to provide information about the rest of these musicians,” says Rotondi. “Clearly, at every level, without Jakob’s involvement, this project would never have come to fruition.”
The Helling/Rotondi duo works wonders. There is a kind of secret and invisible alchemy between these two artists. When you consider the demands of orchestral form, this work deserves respect. It’s a titanic undertaking of composition, arrangement, and orchestra direction to achieve such a brilliant result. It’s sheer genius! I mentioned it to you in late 2023, and 2024 will be a great year, not only where you might expect. Artists, sometimes barely known, are surprising us at the same level as Jim Rotondi, the ultimate proof of the great vitality of jazz, which has never been so well represented and is one of the most exciting artistic forms.

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, February 9th 2024


To buy this album

1.Ruth 07:31
2.Dark Blue 06:47
3.Lady Bug 08:02
4.Designated Hitter 04:18
5.Falset 07:47
6.Before Curtis 00:40
7.For Curtis 07:09
8.Going To The Sun 06:25
9.Prelude For 14 Strings and Flute 01:13
10.Interlude 05:01
11.In Graz 07:31
12.Happy Feet 06:03
13.Miller Time 08:19