216

Fred Hess Big Band: Hold On

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
Fred Hess Big Band: Hold On Originally from Abington, Pennsylvania, tenor saxophonist Fred Hess has resided in Denver, Colorado since 1981. Though Denver is not often considered a hotbed of progressive jazz, Hess, as founder of the Boulder Creative Music Ensemble and Denver's Creative Music Works Orchestra, has fashioned an alternative to the East Coast/West Coast paradigm. With 14 albums as a leader to his credit, Hess and his regular collaborators have documented a fertile body of work, with many tunes from his burgeoning songbook featured on Hold On, Hess' first big band album.

First heard together on The Long and Short of It (Tapestry, 2004), trumpeter Ron Miles, bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Matt Wilson comprise Hess' tightly knit quartet—the foundation of this 16-piece big band. Split evenly between covers and expanded versions of his own compositions, the album's 11 tunes prove Hess to be a compelling arranger. Exploring an assortment of prewar and postwar styles, he encapsulates everything in his writing from the vibrant swing of Count Basie and Duke Ellington to the outward bound experimentation of Muhal Richard Abrams and Sun Ra.

The swaggering blues of "Good Question" opens the album with a round robin of pithy solos and punchy riffs, setting the mood for much of the set. Revisiting classical forms, "Sicilienne/Greensleeves" interweaves Faure's nostalgic melody with the venerable English folk tune, yielding lush, bucolic panoramas. Hearkening back to the days of cutting contests, the title track features an old-school tenor battle between Hess and Dominic Lalli, who parry and feint with spry congeniality. Moving conceptually forward, "On Perry Street" struts into modernism, with trumpeter Brad Goode launching piquant barbs across funky backbeats, before the leader unfurls an intensifying series of coiled thematic variations.

Heading into vanguard territory, Hess unveils thorny arrangements of Gary McFarland's "Pretty Little Gypsy/Chuggin'" and Anthony Braxton's "RBHM-KNNK." The former modulates from winsome melancholy to sultry blues, culminating in a riotous carnivalesque climax before returning to the tonic. The latter balances cubist angles and shifting tempos while spotlighting Marc Sabatella's ramshackle piano salvos and John Gunther's elliptical alto cadences. Hess' own "The Clef's Visit Grandma's" ventures even further out as a discordant tone poem vacillating between AACM-inspired pointillism and comic narrative devices.

Compared to the recent spate of creative big band records, such as Darcy James Argue's Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam, 2009) and John Hollenbeck's Eternal Interlude (Sunnyside, 2009), Hold On hems closer to established traditions. It eschews electronics and popular music forms for tried and true devices that continue to quicken the pulse and lift the spirits.


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.

Title: Hold On | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Dazzle Recordings


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read 90 Going On Amazing CD/LP/Track Review 90 Going On Amazing
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 21, 2017
Read Let There Be Life, Love and Laughter CD/LP/Track Review Let There Be Life, Love and Laughter
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: August 21, 2017
Read L.O.T.U.S. CD/LP/Track Review L.O.T.U.S.
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 21, 2017
Read Art in the Age of Automation CD/LP/Track Review Art in the Age of Automation
by Geno Thackara
Published: August 21, 2017
Read Screen Sounds CD/LP/Track Review Screen Sounds
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 20, 2017
Read Rediscovered Ellington CD/LP/Track Review Rediscovered Ellington
by Troy Dostert
Published: August 20, 2017
Read "Organ Monk, The Breathe Suite" CD/LP/Track Review Organ Monk, The Breathe Suite
by Roger Farbey
Published: April 29, 2017
Read "Strange Circles" CD/LP/Track Review Strange Circles
by Daniel Marx
Published: August 8, 2017
Read "My Foolish Heart" CD/LP/Track Review My Foolish Heart
by Geno Thackara
Published: February 3, 2017
Read "Lacy Pool_2" CD/LP/Track Review Lacy Pool_2
by Glenn Astarita
Published: June 14, 2017
Read "New Angle" CD/LP/Track Review New Angle
by Jack Bowers
Published: August 13, 2017
Read "Malnoia" CD/LP/Track Review Malnoia
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 24, 2017

Sponsor: JANA PROJECT | LEARN MORE  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.