A San Francisco prodigy known for fire and fluidity in his deep-groove guitar work, Barry Finnerty was one of the top players on the New York jazz scene from the '70s through the '90s. His brilliant playing with the Crusaders, Miles Davis and the Brecker Brothers put him on the international map. In the late-'90s, he returned to the Bay Area to compose, perform and teach, writing a lot of music and two volumes of his acclaimed practice books. A versatile artist who describes his guitar style as a mix of George Benson and Jeff Beck, his prime influences, Finnerty digs into a wide range of moods and grooves on his first studio recording in a decade, "Blues for Trane."
Amina Figarova, a native of Azerbaijan who's now based in Holland, is a terrific player and one of the freshest composers and arrangers of her generation. A fine balance of her detailed scores and the personalized expressivity of her sextet make "Sketches" perhaps the best-realized of Amina's dozen releases since 1994. It is music rooted in the progressive mainstream styles of post-beboppers like Miles Davis, Horace Silver and Herbie Hancock, as updated for the current generation by modernists such as orchestra leader Maria Schneider, whom Amina especially admires.
Also this week, the Israeli-born pianist Tamir Hendelman, who moved to L.A. when he was 12 and has worked with James Moody, Benny Golson, Quincy Jones and others, releases his second trio release as leader, "Destinations"; singer Janis Mann, a native New Yorker now a favorite on the Los Angeles jazz scene, offers up her sixth disc, "Blow Away"; and saxophonist and composer Dave Anderson emerges from the fertile Seattle jazz scene with his debut CD, "Clarity."