Fred Hess Quartet: Crossed Paths (2005)
Hess appears to enjoy a growing reputation, and he deserves it. He's a monster musician, a saxophonist with a full, distinctive tone, ample chops, and a conception that embraces the tradition, the present, and the future. His solo on the fast "On Perry St." is a fine example of his ability to juggle abstract materials with long melodic lines that reflect the inspiration of his hero Lester Young. Above all, originality is Hess' hallmark.
While a superficial listen to Crossed Paths may bring to mind Ornette Coleman circa 1961, a more forthright appraisal should easily home in on this music's originality, starting with the excellent trumpeter Ron Miles. Miles uses extended techniques like slurs and glisses, and he also displays a lovely, burnished tone and a wicked sense of humor.
The identity of this band is further borne out through Hess' writing. His compositions largely depend on melodic rather than harmonic improvisation, in which form is followed by thematic development. There are exceptions to this approach, including "Funhouse," a hip, relatively straightforward blues highlighted by a flowing Hess solo. Elsewhere, Ken Filiano and Matt Wilson may state the rhythms pointillistically or imply swing. And sometimes they just cook.
Track Listing: On Perry St., Zane, In The No, Knitwit For Tara, Funhouse, The Clef's Visit Grandma's, Crossed Paths, Mystery Woman, Untying The Knot.
Personnel: Fred Hess, tenor saxophone; Ron Miles, trumpet; Ken Filiano, bass; Matt Wilson, drums.
Record Label: Tapestry
Style: Modern Jazz