Matt Flinner Trio Release Thoughtful and Skillful


Winter Harvest

Compass 4569

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Some music makes you move, and some makes you muse. File the Matt Flinner Trio in the latter category. The trio consists of Flinner on mandolin, Eric Thorn on standup bass, and Ross Martin on guitar, the latter not to be confused with the Scottish singer/songwriter of the same name (which is easy to do as they are roughly the same age and each plays percussive-style guitar, though this Ross Martin does more flat-picking). Winter Harvest is the trio’s second release. Like the first, it’s a genre-bender that’s most likely to get labeled “Newgrass,” a term that came into popularity in the late 1960s to describe a hybrid between bluegrass and jazz. It’s also a maddeningly imprecise term. In the case of the Matt Flinner Trio, the music is bluegrass in the sense that it is string music, has chord and melodic structures associated with Americana music, and features breakout instrumentals, mostly from Flinnerand Martin. It is jazz in sensibility, though, with those very Americana melodies serving mostly as a launching pad for provocative departures, improvs, and mood evocations. Flinner notes that the compositions on the new album evolved from long winter roads. There’s no reason to doubt that, though the introspective and meandering nature of many of the tunes is also in keeping with the ethos of contemplative jazz. The moods range from the bouncy “Big Bug Bop” and the dreamy “Bitterroot” to the giddy “Raji’s Romp,” the latter inspired by an NFL player’s first career touchdown. This is one of those efforts I call a chameleon CD—it changes colors depending upon whether you listen to it while driving, as background music, or alone in a dimly lit room on a cold summer night with a Scotch in hand.—Rob Weir

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