Support All About Jazz

All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Pay $20 and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page, plus this box and the slideout box on the right for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.


I want to help
372

Fred Hess Band: How 'Bout Now

Dan McClenaghan By

Sign in to view read count Views
Fred Hess Band: How 'Bout Now If you go down the list of categories eligible for Grammy Awards, you'll find Field 10 (Jazz), category 47, which is "Best Instrumental Solo." So the Grammy folks are telling us that out of all the jazz CDs released in a given year—thousands of discs that must contain almost uncountable solos—they've been able to isolate just one interlude, one inspired rant that is the best.

If they can do that, they're better than I am. But I can narrow things down, and what's hard to understand is how tenor saxophonist Fred Hess has been overlooked in this category these past few years.

Going back at least to Extended Family (2003), through Long and Short of It (2004), and into last year's Crossed Paths (all on Tapestry), Hess has been making stunningly beautiful free jazz sounds with his horn and his bands. With the horn, every single solo is a buffed-up gem, a mix of pinpoint precision and freewheeling elan; the band walks a line between freedom and control, counterpoint and unison sounds, elasticity and tight grooves.

Just a bit after the turn of the century, Fred Hess realized that he would never be a Joe Lovano and chase chords around, and that he might not have the technical acumen of a James Carter. So he forged his own path, which has proven one of the most interesting, high-octane, malleable sounds in jazz today. His new millennium musical vision was born with Extended Family; it matured with the next two releases, both featuring trumpeter Ron Miles, bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Matt Wilson. His latest offering, How 'Bout Now, adds another dimension to an already fully mature approach with the addition of alto saxophonist Mark Harris.

Hess always sounds as if he's in absolute complete control of his horn, with a burnished tone from the Lester Young school; but there's also a sense of underlying devil-may-care elation, mixed with a happy urgency. Ron Miles—on cornet here—always seems to take things into a different dimension with a Zen-like tranquility, while Ken Filiano muscles the rhythm around; Matt Wilson simmers and boils and bounces with a creative percussive zest. Mark Harris is used mostly as an ensemble addition, though he takes a tight, searing solo—sweetly screechy, if it can be called that—in front of a buoyant rhythm on "Scarlett's Dance."

This is so good—the rubbery ensemble sections, the inspired soling. As an aside (a revelatory one, I think), as I listened to "Sooz Blooz"—with Hess powering headlong, joyfully into a yet another vibrant solo---a small, plump, and very pretty dark-haired woman, granddaughter in her arms, shuffled into the room and broke into a beautiful spontaneous dance, telling me that on a viceral level, in spite of her claims to enjoy what I consider to be to most vapid and uninteresting popular songs, her soul—and her soles—know what's really good.

And that would be the music of Fred Hess.

Visit Fred Hess on the web.


Track Listing: How 'Bout Now; Sooz Blooz; Song for Susan; Scarlett's dance; Finding the Evidence; The Clef's Ski Vacation; Opposites Attract; Gathering Moss; In the Moment; B. Quick.

Personnel: Fred Hess: tenor saxophone; Ron Miles: cornet; Mark Harris: alto saxophone; Ken Filiano: bass; Matt Wilson: drums.

Year Released: 2006 | Style: Modern Jazz


CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Speak
Speak
Alison
2012
buy
Into the Open
Into the Open
Alison
2011
buy
Hold On
Hold On
Dazzle Recordings
2009
buy
Single Moment
Single Moment
Alison
2008
buy
In The Grotto
In The Grotto
Alison
2007
buy
How 'Bout Now
How 'Bout Now
Tapestry
2006
buy
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

More Articles

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

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