216

The Fred Hess Band: In the Grotto

Dan McClenaghan By

Sign in to view read count
The Fred Hess Band: In the Grotto The opening cut on The Fred Hess Band's In the Grotto, "Simple Steps," is a curious mix of whimsy and menace, stunning technical virtuosity and free form good times, a malleable weave of the eloquent and the intricate in his solos as he blows between the tight ensemble sections, all within the saxophonist's loose-jointed compositions. It's a sound that has a beautiful, slightly cerebral and, at times, slightly daft—with a method to the madness—feeling to it.

Tenor saxophonist Hess's artistry took an evolutionary leap with his piano-less quartet disc, Extended Family (Tapestry Records, 2002). He has since put out, in clockwork fashion, four similar sets, each of them nudging his artistry further along. On How 'Bout Now (Tapestry, 2006) he added an extra horn—Matt Harris on alto saxophone. Hess does the same on In the Grotto, bringing in John Gunther (alto sax and flute), filling in the background with a wider range of colors.

It's an all-star band. Besides Hess and Gunther, you have the very busy drummer Matt Wilson, who always brings quirky humor and unexpected backdrops into the mix. Trumpeter Ron Miles, with his soft tone and relative restraint seems like a voice of reason—again, it's relative. Ken Filiano, going back to "Simple Steps," sounds like a guy who came into the place looking to kick somebody's ass, but they shoved a bass into his hands. So he puts his raging energy into the four strings and burnished wood, powering off a steroidal rant against the almost surreal finesse/freedom dynamic of a Hess solo ripping around the room. Then Gunther on alto sax—upping the "crazy" factor—wails into his spot in front of Wilson's controlled flailing.

The title tune finds Miles' muted trumpet on a tune that blows nearly mainstream—Filiano walking—before it disassembles and changes tempo, with Gunther's flute adding some cool coloring.

A major strength of the sound is the arranging—voices slipping in and out, brief unison sections loosening into overlapping conversations built around spirited soloing. And nobody solos like Hess—each turn he takes glows and flashes like a dark-hued, asymmetrically-cut diamond. Indeed, nobody makes music like Fred Hess. He has developed a truly original sound.


Track Listing: Simple Steps; In The Grotto; Hold On; Fortunes Finding; Alison's Dream; The Clefs - Final Chapter?; Ninth House.

Personnel: Fred Hess: tenor saxophone; Ron Miles: trumpet; John Gunther: alto saxophone; Ken Filiano: bass; Matt Wilson: drums.

Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Alison | Style: Modern Jazz


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 Akua's Dance CD/LP/Track Review Akua's Dance
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Daylight Ghosts CD/LP/Track Review Daylight Ghosts
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Live at PafA CD/LP/Track Review Live at PafA
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Ocean of Storms CD/LP/Track Review Ocean of Storms
by Troy Dostert
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Transparent Water CD/LP/Track Review Transparent Water
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Billows Of Blue CD/LP/Track Review Billows Of Blue
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 20, 2017
Read "Everybody's Somebody's Nobody" CD/LP/Track Review Everybody's Somebody's Nobody
by John Sharpe
Published: May 27, 2016
Read "Simians Of Swing" CD/LP/Track Review Simians Of Swing
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: March 24, 2016
Read "Border Crossing" CD/LP/Track Review Border Crossing
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 28, 2016
Read "New Shoots" CD/LP/Track Review New Shoots
by Mike Oppenheim
Published: March 10, 2016
Read "Up Go We" CD/LP/Track Review Up Go We
by Budd Kopman
Published: August 4, 2016
Read "Rubicon" CD/LP/Track Review Rubicon
by John Kelman
Published: July 29, 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!