Trombonist, composer and arranger John Fedchock's New York Big Band has been in existence for more than twenty years, and the scintillating Like It Is is this group's fifth album. Fedchock, his band and this album have also garnered quite a few of this year's Grammys including "Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album," "Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Capella" ("You And The Night And The Music"), "Best Composing" ("Ten Thirty 30"), and two "Best Improvised Jazz Solo" nominations, one for Fedchock ("Never Let Me Go") and the other for Rich Perry ("Ten Thirty 30").
All of this is quite deserved, because this band (not an orchestra), its soloists and the arrangements are top-notch, always maintaining interest and swing like crazy. Fedchock makes a point of making the effort to meld what he considers the essence of "big band past" with today's sensibilities, and the result is equally gratifying to both points of view.
"You And The Night And The Music" is a case in point. The tune, while recognizable, is twisted this way and that and is spiced with some very delicious dissonances, causing one to sit up and take notice. Then, when the arrangement thins out and gets out of the way, the soloists just kill it, playing both "inside" and "outside," supported by the rhythm section with piano. Supporting the soloists and urging them forward are very discreet arrangements that do not overwhelm the proceedings; a perfect mix of the spontaneous and the planned.
The beautiful tune "Never Let Me Go" (see here for a particularly intense rendition) is lovingly treated by Fedchock's exceptional solo, which finds that balance of never letting the ear forget what the tune is while building gorgeous lines, as well as the arrangement which again is balanced between commentary on the solo and its support.
The closing tune, "Ten Thirty 30" (which is simply an abbreviation of Clifford Brown's birthday) uses material drawn from Brown's music and solos. Starting off with a complex, driving and thrilling full band introduction with great playing by Allen Farnham, the arrangement leads to a superb Scott Wendholt trumpet solo, followed by some blistering Fedchock, and then outstanding playing by Perry.
Like It Is finds just the right balance of impeccable swing, rollicking solos and very tight arrangements. Great music, and quite a band!
You And The Night And The Music; Like It Is; Never Let Me Go; Just Sayin'; Ojos De Rojo; Hair Of The Dog; Havana; Just Squeeze Me; For Heaven's Sake; Ten Thirty 30.
John Fedchock: trombone; Mark Vinci: alto saxophone, flute; Charles Pillow: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Rich Perry: tenor saxophone; Walt Weiskopf: tenor saxophone; Gary Smulyan: baritone saxophone (1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9); Scott Robinson: baritone saxophone (2, 7, 8, 10); Tony Kadleck: trumpet, flugelhorn; Craig Johnson: trumpet, flugelhorn; Scott Wendholt: trumpet, flugelhorn (2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 20); John Bailey: trumpet, flugelhorn (1, 4, 9); Barry Ries: trumpet, flugelhorn; Keith O'Quinn: trombone; Clark Gayton: trombone; George Flynn: bass trombone; Allen Farnham: piano; Dick Sarpola: bass; Dave Ratajczak: drums; Bobby Sanabria: percussion (2, 5, 7).
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