If a sextetor a group of any sizeis to be measured by the sum of its parts, trombonist John Fedchock
's NY Sextet succeeds with flying colors, as it embodies half a dozen of the finest jazz musicians the New York City area has to offer. As we know, however, an inclusive appraisal rests on far more than that, else the musicians could simply set their instruments onstage and await the applause.
Yes, musical talent surely provides an advantage, but above all else players must embrace music that is engaging and worth listening to. Fedchock makes sure it reaches that plateau. As a composer / arranger he has nothing to prove, having cut his creative teeth with the celebrated Woody Herman
Herd in 1980 and written for groups large and small since then including his Grammy-nominated New York Big Band. Five of the eight numbers on Into the Shadows
are Fedchock originals, and each one isbeyond any doubt engaging and worth listening to. Good as they are, he fares even better on the standards"I Should Care," "Nature Boy," "Star Eyes"using his special creative powers to lend them uncommon freshness and vitality. "I Should Care," usually played as a ballad, is recast as an upbeat flag- waver, "Nature Boy" is implanted in an Afro-Latin groove, and "Star Eyes," whose lovely melody needs no help, is given a charming rhythmic and harmonic make-over.
Even so, Fedchock saves the best for last: the fiery "On the Edge," first recorded with the New York Big Band, a hard-nosed swinger on which everyone is nimble and robust. And speaking of "everyone," it's time to name names. Trumpeter Scott Wendholt
and tenor Walt Weiskopf
share the front line with Fedchock; the agile and perceptive rhythm section consists of pianist Allen Farnham
, bassist David Finck
and drummer Eric Halvorson
, an able replacement for Fedchock's longtime drummer of choice, the late Dave Ratajczak. The session opens with another "standard," this one well-disguised (Bronislau Kaper's "Invitation," renamed "RSVP"), on which Fedchock takes the first of several tasteful solos, followed in order by Farnham, Wendholt and Weiskopf and four- bar exchanges with Halvorson. Fedchock's shuffling "Alpha Dog" is simply charming, as is the warm and rhythmic "Manaus," dedicated to a city in Brazil's Amazon region.
After "I Should Care" and "Nature Boy," Fedchock changes pace with "Into the Shadows," on which his expressive trombone states the melody and sets the stage for his own earnest solo and others by Wendholt and Farnham. Solos are, indeed, another of the album's impressive aspects, as everyone has a sharp and perceptive voice and uses it to good advantage. The framework, however, is Fedchock's, and it is here that Into the Shadows
rises above the ordinary and proves its worth as an album whose primacy and staying power are self- evident.
RSVP; Alpha Dog; Manaus; I Should Care; Nature Boy; Into The Shadows; Star Eyes; On The Edge.