It's not always easy for musicians to know what to call their own stuff, especially the kind of players who prefer not to settle into one cozy niche. Joe Fiedler certainly makes it difficult, being a fan of things from classic swing to avant-gardesome of which use the trombone in easily familiar ways, some of which couldn't be farther away from its usual wheelhouse. Through a career that's ranged from the Glenn Miller Orchestra to Sesame Street, many others have probably had trouble finding a neat term for what he does as well. Fittingly enough, it was his own daughter that eloquently gave him an encompassing malleable description for the title at hand.
Here he adds onto his usual trio format to make expansive use of a couple more melody instruments. The forms are often well- known while the results nonetheless remain vibrant and fresh. "Maple Avenue Tango" is indeed as cool and slinky as a tango should be, but takes an unexpectedly bright tropical turn with a passage of tastefully reverbed guitar. With a tribute to his somewhat obscure predecessor Eje Thelin, Fiedler honors his subject while spinning dizzying sheets of sound that remind the listener why he's become such a top name on the instrument himself.
From busily squealing out of the gate with the opening number to adding slower shadings throughout, the leader's trombone is as expressive as a singer's voice and as eclectic as the range of his compositions. From samba to classic R&B boogie or juicy rock and roll, Like, Strange keeps the celebratory vibe at a steady broil while never losing the smarts. The crew is ready for whatever stylistic turns he throws out, all sharing both the same professional virtuosity and complete lack of ego.
Pete McCann's guitar can be as subtly-toned as Wes Montgomery's or juiced with power (his fuzzed-out feature spot in "Ladybug" could have almost dropped in from a different album entirely). In either case, he manages to fit with the supple double-bass and fluidly skittering drums even when flaunting some very non-jazzy tones. With Jeff Lederer's saxophone either running in unison or adding complementary shadings, Fiedler's horn incorporates past and present while making it all his own thing. It makes for a particularly inviting brand of strange, familiar enough to dive into and still full of surprises.
Go Get It; Maple Avenue Tango; A Ladybug in My Notebook; Like, Strange; E.T.
(For Eje Thelin); Guiro Nuevo; Tuna Fish Cans; Quasi...; Yinz.
Joe Fiedler: trombone; Jeff Lederer: tenor and soprano saxophones; Pete McCann:
guitar; Rob Jost: bass; Michael Sarin: drums.
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