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John Fedchock Quartet Live: Fluidity

Jack Bowers By

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John Fedchock Quartet Live: Fluidity
When talk turns to outstanding contemporary trombonists, it's surprising that the name John Fedchock isn't mentioned more often. It should be. Not only has Fedchock been on the scene for quite a while, having played with and arranged for the renowned Woody Herman Herd (1980-87) and led his own New York Big Band for more than twenty years, he's a consistently sharp and creative soloist out of the Carl Fontana school whose compositional skills and taste in music are impeccable. And if Fluidity, a live quartet date recorded in August 2013 at Havana Nights in Virginia Beach, VA, is a benchmark, so are his choices of sidemen and venues.

Having played at the Havana Nights club a year earlier, Fedchock surmised that, acoustically, it would be a perfect place in which to record a small-group session. Correct. Second, he reasoned that two "local" players, pianist John Toomey and bassist Jimmy Masters, with whom he had played before, would help form a solid backbone for the group he had in mind. Right again. Third, Fedchock thought it would be a good idea to round out the quartet by flying his longtime friend and colleague, drummer Dave Ratajczak, who has performed on every one of Fedchock's half-dozen albums as leader, from New York City for the date. Once more, an unerring decision.

With the venue set and group intact, the next step lay in choosing the music, and here again Fedchock displays his finesse, carefully blending six well-known standards with a pair of his elaborate compositions ("Havana," "Under the Radar") and Joe Henderson's frisky "Homestretch." What separates the session from many others of its kind—apart from the group's tight and responsive interplay—are Fedchock's deft revisions of the standards, such as transposing Sammy Cahn / Jule Styne's buoyant "Make Someone Happy" into an easygoing ballad or inserting an uncustomary spring in the step of Henry Mancini's "Days of Wine and Roses" (on which Toomey throws in a tasty quote from "Surrey with the Fringe on Top"). The other standards, all of which benefit from the meticulous Fedchock touch, are Brooks Bowman's "East of the Sun," Victor Young's "Weaver of Dreams," Frank Loesser's "I've Never Been in Love Before" (again, taken at a slower than usual pace) and the lustrous "I Hear a Rhapsody."

Not to get too personal, but if I were leading a small-group session there are a handful of timekeepers I'd love to have manning the drum kit including masters like Roy Haynes, Jeff Hamilton or the above-named Dave Ratajczak, all of whom know how to drive an ensemble without drawing undue attention to themselves. Like those others, Ratajczak is brilliant with brushes (which he uses liberally) and unfailingly discreet with sticks in hand. He complements Fedchock well, as do Toomey and Masters, players as bright and talented as they are generally unknown. Together, they make Fluidity not merely a name but a hallmark of their special brand of quartet jazz. Thanks to the group's exceptional rapport and Fedchock's infallible instincts, their live recording is as smooth and appetizing as peaches and cream.

Track Listing

East Of The Sun; Havana; I Hear A Rhapsody; Make Someone Happy; Under The Radar; Weaver Of Dreams; The Days Of Wine And Roses; I've Never Been In Love Before; Homestretch.

Personnel

John Fedchock: trombone; John Toomey: piano; Jimmy Masters; Dave Ratajczak.

Album information

Title: Fluidity | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Summit Records

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