All About Jazz's Dan McClenaghan introduced us to saxophonist Fred Hess last month with his review of his latest quartet date, Extended Family . The Colorado-based saxophonist simultaneously released a duo outing with pianist Marc Sabatella, Right At Home. Where the quartet displays determined bravado, this duo turns inward, taking a more personal approach.
The duo’s influences are many. One hears historic Steve Lacy/Mal Waldron, George Adams/Don Pullen, and Art Pepper/George Cables duos echoed in this recording. Hess and Sabatella draw from swing to free improvisation to create their jazz statement.
They borrow equally from history, applying a chamber music approach to jazz. Sabatella works two-handed magic on “Cathy’s Taffy” splitting his solo from left-brain synchronized runs to right-brain improvisation. Sabatella responds in kind to Hess’ advances. His Thelonious Monk meets Cecil Taylor patterns on the improvised “Notes and Values” is a sort of frenzied deconstructing dance. Hess’ saxophone oofs and squeaks with satisfaction.
Their improvised pieces seem to be merely relief from the congruity of the remaining Hess compositions. Drawing from blues forms, “Good Question,” post-bop styling “Luther’s Promise,” and swing references “Feel It” the pair work through notated music with comfortable ease. Hess cites Joe Lovano as a personal hero. His tribute on “Joe Said” and his playing throughout this recording showcases a silky scarf over a cashmere sweater sound.