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John Fedchock New York Big Band: Like It Is

Jack Bowers By

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Worth waiting for—an expression that can be used to describe any number of life's pleasurable experiences: a memorable vacation, a sumptuous meal, a thrilling chance encounter —or even the fifth recording (and first in roughly eight years) by trombonist John Fedchock's superlative New York Big Band. Pleasurable it is from start to finish, with inspired blowing by the ensemble enhancing ten of Fedchock's exemplary charts. Whatever the premise or circumstance, Fedchock tells it Like It Is, and the band responds with a performance that never once misses the mark, musically or aesthetically. In other words, worth waiting for.

Buoyant as the mood is throughout, it has since been tempered by a measure of sadness, as drummer Dave Ratajczak, the first sideman enlisted by Fedchock when he formed the NYBB in 1989, passed away only four months after the album was recorded, a great loss not only to longtime friend Fedchock and the band but to music in general. Anyone who listens closely to Like It Is will readily apprehend why Fedchock called Ratajczak "the heartbeat of the ensemble," adding that he "never played a note" on any recording for the past twenty-five years without Ratajzcak at his side to lend support. Ratajczak makes his awesome presence felt immediately on the standard "You and the Night and the Music," driving the band with his usual self-assurance and awareness while Fedchock, alto Mark Vinci and tenor Rich Perry weigh in with persuasive solos. This is the way big-band jazz should be played.

Alto Charles Pillow, trumpeter Barry Ries and percussionist Bobby Sanabria help enliven the title song, a playful cha-cha that is the first of Fedchock's five charming originals. He also wrote the Wayne Shorter-inspired "Just Sayin,'" the impulsive "Hair of the Dog," the graceful "Havana" and a picturesque tribute to the legendary trumpeter Clifford Brown, "Ten Thirty 30," named after Brownie's birthdate (October 10, l930) and based entirely on his music and solos. Rounding out the splendid bill of fare are burnished showcases for Fedchock ("Never Let Me Go"), baritone Scott Robinson ("Just Squeeze Me"), Ries on flugelhorn ("For Heaven's Sake") and pianist Cedar Walton's endearing "Ojos de Rojo," on which Ratajczak's thundering salvos set the stage for the final shout chorus.

Enticing solos abound, from those already noted to emphatic statements by Pillow and Fedchock ("Just Sayin'"), pianist Allen Farnham, trumpeter Scott Wendholt and baritone Gary Smulyan ("Ojos de Rojo"), Farnham, Fedchock, bassist Dick Sarpola and tenor Walt Weiskopf ("Hair of the Dog"), Vinci (on flute) and Fedchock ("Havana"), Farnham, Wendholt, Fedchock and Perry (Ten Thirty 30"). The ensemble, for its part, never drops a stitch, nor does the implacable rhythm section. From any angle, one of the more engaging big-band albums of the year—a touchstone that no one need wait any longer to appreciate.

Track Listing: 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.

Personnel: 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).

Title: Like It Is | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: MAMA Records

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