Veteran trombonist and big band leader John Fedchock, has had a history of showcasing some of the finest contemporary ensemble music ever presented, and on the audacious Like It Is, keeps that tradition alive on the fifth album from his 16-piece New York Big Band. A group by the way, that has been around and swinging for over two decades boasting a personnel listing of all-stars and jazz luminaries which, have garnished the eventual Grammy nods with the four previous recordings. The inspiration for the album, may have been the desire to present large orchestrations with a respect and feel of the past big band voice augmented by an infusion of the modern approach to ensemble music, offering a terrific, propulsive and engaging big band sound "like it is" now!
Featured here are five Fedchock originals and five new dynamic arrangements of jazz standards from composers Arthur Schwartz and Ray Evans to Duke Ellington and Cedar Walton offering a blast from the past with a new twist, together with a percolating pop from the present essentially, affirming the main theme of the album. Drummer Dave Ratajczak introduces the sizzling opener "You and the Night and the Music," followed by solo moments from the leader, Mark Vinci on alto and Rich Perry on tenor saxophone turning the familiar melody into a challenge to discern but certainly accomplishing the goal of sounding new and vibrant.
The percussive beats of the title track has a Latin-tinge and features the great Charles Pillow on an alto solo accompanied by the hard-blowing trumpet of Barry Ries leading the band. Continuing with the Latin theme, Fedchock introduces a superb arrangement of Walton's classic "Ojos De Rojo" featuring pianist Allen Farnham doing his utmost to sound like a Latin jazz artist of note. Other players featured on this gyrating piece are all-stars Scott Wendholt on trumpet and the legendary baritone master, Gary Smulyan. While not a Latin jazz project, Fedchock does includes one more Latin-styled piece with the Afro-Cuban rhythms of "Havana," showcasing Bobby Sanabria's percussions and Vinci's voice on the flute.
The Evans classic composition "Never Let Me Go," allows Fedchock the opportunity to take center stage on his own recording as he offers a warm and intimate voice on the piece making it a trombone feature and the first soft balladic tune of the album. On the swinging side of the musical ledger you have the original "Just Sayin,'" the powerful-sounding "Just Squeeze Me," and the brassy hard-driving finale tune "Ten Thirty 30."
The Fedchock band has so many top-notch players providing stellar solo moments that it seems all deserve mention such as standouts like alto saxophonist Walt Weiskopf, baritone man Scott Robinson, bassist Dick Sarpola and Tony Kadleck among many others. Trombonist/band leader John Fedchock and his amazing New York Big Band turn in another special performance delivering a muscular sound in a finesse manner and in the finest tradition of big band music just Like It Is and should be.
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).