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In Memoriam: Fred Ho


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"Fred Ho's style is a genre unto itself, a pioneering fusion of free-jazz and traditional Chinese music that manages to combine truculence and delicacy with such natural ease that it sounds positively organic." —Larry Birnbaum, Down Beat.

After 8 years of a grueling cancer war, Fred Ho peacefully passed away the morning of April 12th, 2014. He was in his Greenpoint, Brooklyn home, surrounded by friends and loved ones.

Fred Ho was a one-of-a-kind revolutionary Chinese American baritone saxophonist, composer, writer, producer, political activist and leader of several music ensembles. For two decades, he innovated a new American Multicultural Music embedded in the swingingest, most soulful and transgressive forms of African American music with the influences of Asia and the Pacific Rim.

Ho was a prodigious composer, having recorded more than fifteen albums as a leader and written several critically acclaimed operas, music/theater epics, cutting edge multimedia performance works, scores, oratorios and a martial arts ballet. He received numerous grants and commissions from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Apollo Theatre Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, NY State Council on the Arts, Chamber Music America and World Music Institute among others to present his vision of music and the arts. Fred Ho has been the subject of several scholarly works while other distinctions include a 1996 American Book Award and becoming the youngest person to receive the Duke Ellington Distinguished Artist Lifetime Achievement Award. Recent commissions include the nationally toured and celebrated Voice of the Dragon; Josephine Baker's Angels from the Rainbow for Imani Winds; Suite for Matriarchal Shaman Warriors for percussion ensemble IIIZ+ and a Jazz Commissioning Award from Chamber Music America to compose Suite Sam Furnace. Other unique compositions include the music/theater project Deadly She-Wolf Assassin at Armageddon!, a martial arts sword epic paying homage to manga and samurai film classics, the opera Mr. Mystery: The Return of Sun Ra to Save Planet Earth with libretto by Quincy Troupe, and Dragon vs. Eagle for the Apollo Theater and Brooklyn Academy of Music Next Wave Festival.

As a musical leader, Fred Ho founded the Afro Asian Music Ensemble in 1982 and Monkey Orchestra in 1990, co-founded the Brooklyn Sax Quartet with David Bindman in in 1997, Caliente! Circle Around the Sun (featuring Ho's solo baritone saxophone with poets Magdalena Gomez and Raul Salinas), and the Green Monster Big Band. Additionally, Fred has published several books including his newest Wicked Theory, Naked Practice, a groundbreaking collection of his writings, speeches and interviews from the past 30 years. Fred's recent works include Deadly She-Wolf Assassin at Armageddon! (2013, La MaMa), and Sweet Science Suite (2013, BAM).

Fred Ho is survived by his two sisters, Florence Houn and Flora Hoffman, a new revolutionary movement he helped to generate by the name of Scientific Soul Sessions, and legions of friends and comrades whose lives will be forever shaped by his diligent mentorship and uncompromising fight for justice, revolution, and perpetual creativity.

A memorial concert to Fred Ho is being organized by Fred Ho's last composition student, Marie Incontrera, and his baritone saxophone protege, Benjamin Barson, with the Eco-Music Big Band, which Ho founded. The concert will take place at Ginny's Supper Club at Red Rooster on April 23rd at 7:30 and 9:30pm. A public funeral and concert is being organized for a later date.

Benjamin Barson
Scienitifc Soul Sessions


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