Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

195

The Fred Hess Band: In The Grotto

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
In The Grotto is Denver-based composer and tenor saxophonist Fred Hess' twelfth album as a leader and the fourth to feature members of his long-running quartet. The Long and Short of It (Tapestry, 2004) and Crossed Paths (Tapestry, 2005) featured trumpeter Ron Miles, bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Matt Wilson. How 'Bout Now (Tapestry, 2006) expanded the quartet to a quintet with Mark Harris on alto saxophone. Continuing in this format, multi-instrumentalist John Gunther replaces Harris, making his debut with the veteran line-up on this stunning new album.

Hess' writing is one of gradual progression; in terms of composing and improvising, each succeeding album reaches further than the last. Hess again augments the classic piano-less, two horn quartet line-up with a third horn. The intuitive and malleable rhythm section of Filiano and Wilson frees up the frontline to engage in more than two-part harmonies and basic counterpoint. The crafty Wilson continues to astound with his percussive mastery. Teamed with the masterful Filiano, these two elevate the role of rhythm section accompaniment beyond time-keeping to conversational dialogue.

Hess is a compelling stylist; his breathy old school tone softens his modernist angular phrasing. Miles lends a mellifluously abstract edge to the quintet; his solos on the title track and "Ninth House" are expressively fragile in their thematically rigorous beauty. Newcomer Gunther plays with brio and verve, dueling with Hess on a number of invigorating encounters. His acerbic alto solos on "Simple Steps" and "Alison's Dream" are electrifying jolts on a record filled with highlights.

Hess' writing brilliantly merges the buoyant lilt of West Coast jazz with the simmering energy of Post-War free jazz, effortlessly blending seemingly incongruous genres and styles. A creative soul whose work never fails to swing, Hess is a traditionalist at heart. "Hold On" borrows as much from classic 1960s hard bop tenor battles as the polyphonic advances of Ornette Coleman. "Simple Steps blends a raw, funk backbeat with turgid horn solos, while "Alison's Dream" vacillates from pungent three-horn discourse to sparse free-form detours.

The introspective title track employs rich counterpoint, while "Fortunes Finding" blends 20th Century classical motifs with jazz improvisation, yielding the session's most sophisticated excursion. "The Clefs - Final Chapter?" ties together AACM styled exploration with hints of reggae and a verbal narrative. Ending with "Ninth House," Hess weaves the melodies of "Miles' Mode" and "All Blues" into a rousing tribute to John Coltrane as the quintet knits exalted modality to hard-charging swing.

Efficiently blending classic hard bop swing and Third Stream ambience with fiery improvisation and experimental structures, In The Grotto is Hess' most expansive statement to date.


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: flute, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone; Ken Filiano: bass; Matt Wilson: drums.

Title: In The Grotto | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Alison


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Rain or Shine CD/LP/Track Review Rain or Shine
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 15, 2017
Read Lighthouse CD/LP/Track Review Lighthouse
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 15, 2017
Read Copenhagen Live 1964 CD/LP/Track Review Copenhagen Live 1964
by John Sharpe
Published: December 15, 2017
Read Somewhere Glimmer CD/LP/Track Review Somewhere Glimmer
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 15, 2017
Read Lattice CD/LP/Track Review Lattice
by John Sharpe
Published: December 14, 2017
Read I Think I’m Going To Eat Dessert CD/LP/Track Review I Think I’m Going To Eat Dessert
by Mark Corroto
Published: December 14, 2017
Read "Off Beat" CD/LP/Track Review Off Beat
by Mark E. Gallo
Published: August 9, 2017
Read "The Journey" CD/LP/Track Review The Journey
by James Nadal
Published: January 5, 2017
Read "Les Deux Versants Se Regardent" CD/LP/Track Review Les Deux Versants Se Regardent
by John Sharpe
Published: February 23, 2017
Read "First Light" CD/LP/Track Review First Light
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 18, 2017
Read "Counteract This Turmoil Like Trees And Birds" CD/LP/Track Review Counteract This Turmoil Like Trees And Birds
by John Sharpe
Published: August 3, 2017
Read "Kurrent" CD/LP/Track Review Kurrent
by Friedrich Kunzmann
Published: November 15, 2017

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!