Whenever another musical project from Grammy-nominated trombonist/arranger John Fedchock is announced, what most likely comes to mind is another large ensemble album with his renowned New York Big Band. Not so this time, as The John Fedchock NY Sextet presents its hard-driving recording debut, from a 2008 live performance at the Red Sea Jazz Festival held in the City of Eilat, Israeldescribed as an oasis in the southern Negev Desert located on the northern part of the Red Sea. After seeing the group's show featured in a national broadcast of the festival on Israeli television, and being impressed with the exceptional audio fidelity of the broadcast, Fedchock decided to obtain the festival's audio recording to permanently document the sextet's sparkling performance on "Live at the Red Sea Jazz Festival."
Not since Hit The Bricks (Reservoir 2000), has the trombonist featured his sextet in a recording. Three members of that grouptrumpeter Scott Wendholt, pianist Allen Farnham and drummer Dave Ratajczak (also members of his New York Big Band)return for this date, while bassist Dave Finck and saxophonist Walt Weiskopf are associates from Fedchock's days at the Eastman School of Music. Except for the oft-recorded and spacious Ellington/Mills/Tizol jazz standard "Caravan," clocking in at fourteen minutes in length, the limited repertoire on the disc is comprised primarily of pieces the band has performed before.
Recorded in August of 2008, the two-night performance became a challenge in the blistering 111 degree heat, which explains why the music is so hot. An unselfish artist who, at times, plays more of a supporting role, Fedchock provides enormous space for members of his band to explore and improvise on their solos. Nevertheless, it is the trombonist himself who stretches out on the opening "This Just In," just prior to Farnham's welcoming piano chords. A striking feature here is Weiskopf, whose steamy and "amazing upper-register command" of the tenor, as confirmed by Fedchock, makes his saxophone voice sound almost like an alto. A sampling of the hard-bop burner "That's All Right" provides ear-shaking example of just how good this guy really is.
Wendholt is no slouch either, delivering a slew of wonderful jousts none better that his performance on Tom Harrell's "Moon Alley," where the flugelhorn becomes his chosen instrumental voice on this beautiful, ballad-like number. Farnham takes his turn in the limelight, showcasing his ample piano-chops on the teasing and direction-changing "Elvin's Empire," diced delicately with more Fedchock trombone phrasing as well as some additional tenor madness from Weiskopf.
The set would have ended after the performance of the original finale piece "Caravan," but the band returned to the stage for an encore tipping their hat to the crowd with the brief and bluesy "Not So New Blues." There's not much question about this version of The John Fedchock NY Sextet; their performance is electrifying, and Live at the Red Sea Jazz Festival captures the energy, fire and heat generated by the band in a setting not originally meant to be recorded, but thankfully so, for jazz fans everywhere to appreciate.
Personnel: John Fedchock: trombone; Scott Wendholt: trumpet, flugelhorn; Walt Weiskopf: tenor saxophone; Allen Farnham: piano; David Finck: bass; Dave Ratajczak: drums.