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John Fedchock New York Sextet: Live at the Red Sea Jazz Festival

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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There is a rugged elegance in the kinetic energy that propels the music played by John Fedchock's New York Sextet. The performances on Live at the Red Sea Music Festival hark back to the hard driving live bebop performances that powered on in the best venues during the '50s and '60s. This does not mean that Fedchock's music is patently imitative; rather it is wildly inventive, as it pays tribute to one of the most enduring metaphors of jazz. Not only that, Fedchock is a wildly creative composer who suggests melodies that turn into spectacular edifices because of the magnificent chord changes—plenty of flatted fifths and sevenths that liven proceedings. Fedchock is also unafraid to work with different kinds of modes—Lydian and Phrygian. His energy drives the ensemble with robust trombone soloing that imbues the other players with the kind of spirit that Sonny Rollins infused in his various bands from his Village Vanguard days.

It is hard to single out a particular piece as they all have the pulsations that make this set extremely exciting. However, Fedchock's modal piece, written in homage to Elvin Jones has all the makings of a classic. Here Fedchock works the modes with deep passion—up and down the minor chord variations—while drummer Dave Ratajczak plays Jones-like. He keeps the time going with rolling thunder on the snare, sometimes using the right and left hand, then he comps with a steady tic-tic-tic-tic-t-tic as he shifts accents from tom-tom to tympani, then trading hands from toms to snare. Occasionally there are the splashes on the ride and the sock cymbals, while he maintains a steady beat with the hi-hat as he drops heavy bombs from his bass drum. Walt Weiskopf makes a smashing entry with his tenor, squeezing a mother lode of clusters and cascading notes as he follows Fedchock. The ensemble is equally inventive on the slow bluesy chart from the pen of Tom Harrell. This is, of course, a wonderful vehicle for the soft melodious solo from trumpeter Scott Wendholt and a beautiful searing one from Fedchock as well. But the crowing moments come when Fedchock unveils his unexpectedly ravishing rendition of the Duke Ellington/Juan Tizol piece, "Caravan."

Fedchock plays this one slightly faster, taking some harmonic liberties and even using some mild dissonance, especially during his fluid solo, though it is always the wild energy that carries the piece. Weiskopf also gives a fine account of himself, playing one brassy chorus after the other on an open-belled trumpet, while bassist David Finck walks elegantly by the rhythm section, while his exchanges with pianist Allen Farnham take the song onto a delightfully playful realm. But it is the raw energy expended by Fedchock that creates the space for everyone to create a truly memorable live set.

Track Listing: This Just In; That's All Right; Elvin's Empire; Moon Alley; Caravan; Not So New Blues.

Personnel: John Fedchock: trombone; Scott Wendholt: trumpet, flugelhorn; Walt Weiskopf: tenor saxophone; Allen Farnham: piano; David Finck: bass; Dave Ratajczak: drums.

Title: Live at the Red Sea Jazz Festival | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Capri Records

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