Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

216

Fred Hess Big Band: Hold On

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
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

Blues For Bonnie Belle

Blues For Bonnie Belle

Fred Hess
Speak

Album Reviews
Read more articles
Speak

Speak

Alison Records
2012

buy
Into the Open

Into the Open

Alison Records
2011

buy
Hold On

Hold On

Dazzle Recordings
2009

buy
Single Moment

Single Moment

Alison Records
2008

buy
In The Grotto

In The Grotto

Alison Records
2007

buy
How 'Bout Now

How 'Bout Now

Tapestry
2006

buy

Shop

Start your shopping here and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read New American Songbooks, Volume 2 Album Reviews
New American Songbooks, Volume 2
By Karl Ackermann
February 19, 2019
Read Live At JazzCase Album Reviews
Live At JazzCase
By Troy Dostert
February 19, 2019
Read Eastern Sonata Album Reviews
Eastern Sonata
By James Fleming
February 19, 2019
Read Cannonball Album Reviews
Cannonball
By Rob Rosenblum
February 19, 2019
Read Child Of Illusion Album Reviews
Child Of Illusion
By Don Phipps
February 19, 2019
Read Infection In The Sentence Album Reviews
Infection In The Sentence
By Chris May
February 18, 2019
Read Real Isn't Real Album Reviews
Real Isn't Real
By Phil Barnes
February 18, 2019