The Fred Hess Band: Single Moment (2008)
Tenor saxophonist Fred Hess blew off on a free tangent in 2002 with Exposed (CIMP Records), employing an Ornette Coleman style quartet containing two horns, bass and drums. He followed up on that approach with three excellent Tapestry Records discs, Extended Family (2003), The Long and Short of It (2004), and Crossed Paths (2005), with the latter pair cementing the Ken Filiano (bass), Ron Miles (trumpet) and Matt Wilson (drums) line-up that has carried over to Hess' more recent quintet albums, How 'Bout Now (Tapestry, 2006) and In the Grotto (Alison Records, 2007).
A constant on these sets from the new millennium has been the absence of a chordal instrument. With the release of Single Moment, Hess invites guitarist Dale Bruning into the fold. Bruning lays down a crunchy rhythmic undertone on the opener, the Hess-penned "Blues for Bonnie," a tune that has the saxophonist and the band sounding as cool and in the groove as a jazz group can get. Hess solos, as always, with a mellifluous gusto and a seemingly endless flow of intriguing ideas. This is followed by a beautiful Miles' solo with relative restraint and economy.
Bruning's "Dancing with Daffodils" has the guitarist showing off his crisp, clean, Jim Hall-like chops. "Norman's Gold," another Hess tune, zips along exuberantly, featuring compact soling all around, and "While My Lady Sleeps," from the 1941 movie The Chocolate Soldier, is a laid-back Bruning/Hess duet.
With takes on Rodgers and Harts' "Spring is Here" and a couple of Benny Golson tunes in the mix, it's tempting to say that Hess is leaning back toward the mainstream side of jazz, before he launches into "Return Of The Clefs," in spite of a supposed "Final Chapter?" to the saga on In the Grotto. It's a crazy clan, about as far out of the mainstream as can be, rendered by the band in a madcap mode, with Mrs. Clef as sung by God knows whogoing into histrionics amid the ensemble clamor. It sounds as if a good time was had by all.
The title tune closes the set in a tribute to the late Michael Brecker, and again features tasty and succinct soloing all round.
Single Moment is another outstanding Fred Hess Band effort.
Track Listing: Blues for Bonnie Belle; Dancing With Daffodils; Norman's Gold; While My Lady Sleeps; Port O' Call; Thursday's Theme; Out Of The Past; Return Of The Clefs; Spring Is Here; Single Moment.
Personnel: Fred Hess: tenor saxophone; Ron Miles: trumpet; John Gunther: flute, alto saxophone; Dale Bruning: guitar; Ken Filiano: bass; Matt Wilson: drums.