Tenor saxophonist Fred Hess has been something of an adventurer with his music. He has not only gone past the obvious in his interpretation of tunes, he has also been unafraid to get into different genres. That he has been successful tells his tale.
Hess adds guitarist Dale Bruning to his tried and true quintet of Ron Miles (trumpet), John Gunther (flute, alto saxophone), Ken Filiano (bass) and Matt Wilson (drums). Bruning infuses a different character to the music with his dynamics, no matter if he is plumb in the middle of the band or in a conversation with Hess with only the listener around.
The music runs an interesting gamut from a soft breathy ballad to a free toss around. There is also a serving of bebop and heady Caribbean rhythm.
Bruning and Hess get down to quiet times on "While My Lady Sleeps." Hess is breathy and eloquent, dipping gently into a phrase to find the little nuances and bring them up to shimmer and dazzle. And as he turns the phrases inside out, Bruning embellishes the tune with chords that descend in gentle complement.
The band loosens fetters for "Return of the Clefs." The constant shift of time and direction presages expectancy. Hess torques his lines, Filiano gets down to some arco and Wilson splatters and colours the beat. They even get down to a marching tempo, though one can well imagine them doing it with the tongue firmly in cheek. It sure is fun to listen to.
The ballad artistry of Hess finds another loquacious home on "Thursday's Theme." With Gunther on flute, the tune breathes with a burning passion. The improvisations are steady and there are no unnecessary fills.
The focus of the band is clear and that is to create music that is both lyrical and exciting. They succeed in no small measure.
Personnel: Fred Hess: tenor saxophone; Ron Miles: trumpet; John Gunther: flute, alto saxophone; Dale
Bruning: guitar; Ken Filiano: bass; Matt Wilson: drums.