311

Fred Hess Big Band: Hold On

Dan McClenaghan By

Sign in to view read count
Fred Hess Big Band: Hold On Fred Hess has been prolific this millennium. For those familiar with the Denver-based saxophonist's last six discs, however, Hold On may come as a surprise. Since 2004, Hess has immersed himself in the art of the piano-less quartet, before augmenting his group—first, with a second saxophonist, and then a guitarist, moving from quintet to sextet and offering up a fresh and energetic take on free jazz.

With Hold On, Hess jumps into the big band arena for the first time, with stunning success.

This ambitious foray into the big band arena sounds like a set that Hess always wanted to make. In this respect, a comparison can be made between Hess and the late Joe Henderson. Both are saxophonists with huge technical mastery of their instruments, impossibly creative soloists and musicians' musicians. Each spent a good deal of time blowing under radar (more so for Hess, in a post-major label world) in spite of prodigious skills. Henderson got his shot at doing his Big Band (Verve Records, 1995), after the success of his Miles Davis tribute So Near, So Far (Verve Records, 1993). It seems that Hess has engineered his own opportunity after the critical success of his series of small label sets.

With the free aspect of his small ensemble sets in mind, a very free and perhaps even wildly cacophonous (Satoko Fujii-like) approach to big band might be expected. But the harmonies sound closer to the mainstream, and are often majestic—Duke Ellington even. Cool, ephemeral, lighter-than-air reed washes float through foundations of substantial brass, tied into a tight package by the rhythm team of drummer Matt Wilson, bassist Ken Filiano and pianist Marc Sabatella.

Fantastic solos abound by trumpeter Ron Miles, alto saxophonist John Gunther, trombonists Tom Ball and Nelson Hinds, Filiano and, of course, Hess. The sound of the tenorist breaking out in front of the ensemble for a solo is a marvelous experience—the gorgeous fluidity of his voice, the labyrinthine stories he tells, twisting and turning from one surprise to the next, wrapping up with off-kilter, Hess-ian logic.

Anthony Braxton's "RBHM-KNNK" and the Clef Family, back with "The Clef's Visit to Grandma," are the exceptions to the set's straight-ahead vibe. Braxton's tune is darkly abstract and wandering, with a superbly prickly piano solo by Sabatella. With the Clef's—who have appeared on all of Hess' small ensemble discs—things are as madcap as ever. An initial listen suggests an extended family fistfight on Grandma's back lawn, but Hess' liner notes reveal involvement of wild dogs and giant, mutant, radioactive wood ticks, as well as helicopters blown out of the sky by lightening strikes. Such is the world of Hess' friends the Clefs.

With Hold On Fred Hess proves himself a first rate big band man.

Track Listing: Good Question; For Thomas; Hold on; Sicilienne/Greensleeves; Opposites Attract; A Night To Remember; Pretty Little Gypsy/Chuggin'; On Perry Street; RBHM-KNNK; The Clef's Visit Grandma's; Knitwit For Tara.

Personnel: Fred Hess: tenor saxophone; Johan Eriksson: alto saxophone; John Gunther: alto saxophone; Dominic Lalli: tenor saxophone; Mark Harris: baritone saxophone; Brad Goode: trumpet; Al Hood: trumpet; Ron Miles: trumpet; Dave Rajewski: trumpet; Hoyt Andres: trombone; Tom Ball: trombone; Nelson Hinds: trombone; Gary Mayne: bass trombone; Marc Sabatella: piano; Ken Filiano: bass; Matt Wilson: drums; Tyler Gilmore: conductor.

Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Dazzle Recordings | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read Rags And Roots CD/LP/Track Review Rags And Roots
by James Nadal
Published: April 25, 2017
Read Tangled CD/LP/Track Review Tangled
by Jack Bowers
Published: April 25, 2017
Read Is It Me...? CD/LP/Track Review Is It Me...?
by Edward Blanco
Published: April 25, 2017
Read Live CD/LP/Track Review Live
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: April 25, 2017
Read 14.11.2016 CD/LP/Track Review 14.11.2016
by Nicola Negri
Published: April 25, 2017
Read Malnoia CD/LP/Track Review Malnoia
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 24, 2017
Read "Cosmic Adventure" CD/LP/Track Review Cosmic Adventure
by James Nadal
Published: August 16, 2016
Read "Discoveries on Tracker Action Organs" CD/LP/Track Review Discoveries on Tracker Action Organs
by John Eyles
Published: January 21, 2017
Read "PointCounterPoint" CD/LP/Track Review PointCounterPoint
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 7, 2016
Read "Real Talk" CD/LP/Track Review Real Talk
by Edward Blanco
Published: May 23, 2016
Read "Mac Gollehon & The Hispanic Mechanics" CD/LP/Track Review Mac Gollehon & The Hispanic Mechanics
by Paul Naser
Published: May 2, 2016
Read "Ed Calle 360" CD/LP/Track Review Ed Calle 360
by Edward Blanco
Published: July 17, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM RECORDS | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!