What word to say first, refreshing or wow? Perhaps, wow, this is refreshing! With the assorted amount of experimental jazz that often needed more time in the lab, that is an assault on the unsuspecting ear, the Peter Hess
Quartet have concocted their own penicillin. No longer lab rats, minds can be allowed to thrive and grow.
With seven original compositions, the first five by Hess, this quartet was clearly not content to rely on the tried and true, instead developing their own potent formula. Elements of free jazz, avant-garde, experimental, swing and more are tossed into the beaker. The result resists any of those names. It is yet unlabeled, and with luck it will stay that way.
To attempt to break down each song would be time consuming and inconclusive. Like with the Colonel, there are seven secret herbs and spices here, if not more. The Hess compositions are laced with intensity, melodicism and depth. Trombonist Brian Drye
is salty and sweet, growling and purring, charging and retreating throughout. Equally passionate as a player, Hess thrives in counterpoint, discussion, and in duo with Drye.
This is an equal parts quartet in that drummer Tomas Fujiwara
and bassist Adam Hopkins
are an integral part of the chemistry and musical landscape. Hopkins is patient and more concerned with the collective sound and flow than with ego. Fujiwara is perhaps the real secret ingredient, although his precision with brushes and sticks is hardly secretive. Fujiwara instead enhances every song, whether it be in the pocket with Hopkins or with creative solos and fills.
On the Hess penned "Echolocation," Drye mutes his trombone and stunningly equates the sound of scatting to the point where it is understood as voice. That must have been fun with science back in the laboratory. A magnificent composition that has Hess swiveling for notes that are well outside the box, yet maintaining a hard driving melodic core. A mighty conversation that is punctuated with well-placed grammar from Fujiwara and Hopkins.
If we adhere to the common theory that pauses are as important as notes, then this sophisticated quartet is noteworthy (sorry). They are then the exception to the rule, as well as exceptional. The note selections are as plentiful as they are hurtling toward you with abandon.
The band checks all the boxes with an extra checkmark next to originality in composition and performance. By far the best raw find of 2020.
Sanford Theme; King Tone; Echolocation; Engines; Komma; The Net Menders; When To Move.