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

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
John Coltrane John Coltrane
saxophone
George Kahn George Kahn
piano
Sonny Rollins Sonny Rollins
saxophone
Lester Young Lester Young
saxophone
Eric Dolphy Eric Dolphy
reeds
Ornette Coleman Ornette Coleman
sax, alto
Michael Brecker Michael Brecker
sax, tenor
Chris Potter Chris Potter
reeds
Joe Lovano Joe Lovano
saxophone
Joe Henderson Joe Henderson
sax, tenor
Hal Galper Hal Galper
piano

More Articles

Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Il Dodicesimo Nano" CD/LP/Track Review Il Dodicesimo Nano
by Jim Olin
Published: January 10, 2017
Read "This is Life" CD/LP/Track Review This is Life
by Jerome Wilson
Published: September 29, 2016
Read "The Inner Spectrum of Variables" CD/LP/Track Review The Inner Spectrum of Variables
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 25, 2016
Read "Otterville" CD/LP/Track Review Otterville
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 11, 2016
Read "Subtle Energy" CD/LP/Track Review Subtle Energy
by Geannine Reid
Published: October 13, 2016
Read "Gurutopia" CD/LP/Track Review Gurutopia
by James Nadal
Published: March 22, 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!

Buy it!