Sadly, the inimitable bassist Fred Hopkins passed away on Thursday, January 7, 1999. Fred Hopkins was one of the busiest bassists in Chicago's creative music scene and often the bassist of choice for countless recording projects with dozens of performers too numerous to cite here. On the recently released Prophecy
which was recorded in 1990 we get a glimpse of the much heralded Fred Hopkins/Diedre Murray Quartet. According to Ms. Murray, 'This was the first recording of a quartet that grew out of the Hopkins/Murray duo'.
Diedre Murray along with a handful of other cellists is somewhat of a trailblazer within the vast realm of jazz and improvised music. Together with Fred Hopkins and on this date drummer Newman Baker and guitarist Brandon Ross, the Quartet whirl through complex time signatures along with an array of heterogeneous themes and motifs which is apparent on the opening piece titled, 'Eureka'. Here, Hopkins' arco-bass along with Ms. Murray's earnest and compelling cello performances lead the band through shifting meter via a lineal approach featuring loads of impact, along with nods to Tango and Swing capped off by sharp, ferocious soloing by Ms Murray. Brandon Ross adds a delightfully 'nasty' edge with well stated single note leads, which adhere to the recurring theme. 'Eureka' could be a short story for the aural senses as themes evolve, disappear and resurface in slightly altered states This Quartet maintain an authoritative sense of direction as the music is muscular and hard-hitting yet not without structure and organization!
The title track, 'Prophecy' serves a testament of sorts to the combined performances of Hopkins and Murray as the listener partakes in a mini celebration of hollow wooden stringed instruments. Hopkins and Murray combine dark, resonant tonalities, which at various times can be atmospheric, stark, diffusive or ethereal. On this piece, drummer Newman Baker, implements clever fills behind Murray and Hopkins as he injects a smidgen of wisdom by counterbalancing the almost daunting and ominous themes. 'Doo-Wop II' commences with a swinging yet bluesy feel led by guitarist Brandon Ross' simply stated and somewhat relaxed single note leads. Ever the stylist or perhaps individualist, Ross possesses a signature sound via angular phrasing and twisted, ringing notes while often executing dissonant tonalities into the melody lines.
Prophecy is a wonderfully exciting recording from this once great band. Besides the abundance of twists, turns and surprises ' there are many cohesive elements to this music, which at times borders rock, free jazz and blues; hence, descriptions are difficult. Trying to categorize this music is a daunting task so with that stated, you'll have to hear for yourself. Highly Recommended * * * * '
Personnel: Fred Hopkins; Bass: Diedre Murray; Cello: Newman Baker; Drums: Brandon Ross; Guitar.