Saturday, June 13, 2015

The John Fedchock Quartet: Fluidity

Summit Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Fluidity

I’ve always been partial to jazz trombone. During the big band era, I was knocked out by artists such as Bill Harris, Bob Brookmeyer, Carl Fontana, Bill Watrous, Frank Rosolino, Kai Winding and J.J. Johnson; these days, it’s John Fedchock. 

Born during the latter years of that wonderful era, Fedchock studied at Ohio State University and the Eastman School of Music. He began his career in the 1980s, touring with Woody Herman’s Thundering Herd for seven years, during which time he was a featured soloist, musical director and arranger. 

Fedchock also worked with the likes of Thelonious Monk, Gerry Mulligan, Louie Bellson and the Manhattan Jazz Orchestra. These days, he fronts his own big band and smaller combos. Fluidity, recorded live at the Havanah Nights Club, features him in a quartet setting with pianist John Toomey, bassist Jimmy Masters and drummer Dave Ratajczak.

This release is deliciously relaxed and beautifully performed. Six of the nine tracks are well-known standards, done at moderate and balladic tempos: they include “East of the Sun,” “The Days of Wine and Roses” and “I’ve Never Been in Love Before.” Such immediately familiar tunes clearly had a positive impact on the musicians and their audience. 

Additionally, just to make sure everyone had something to groove to, the guys included a few charts composed by Fedchock — “Havanah” and “Under the Radar” — along with Joe Henderson’s “Homestretch.”

Fedchock produces a great tone from his horn. At ballad tempos, it’s smooth, pure and expressive; conversely, during up-tempo movers, he gets a little rougher and more strident ... and really grabs you by the throat! His solos are inventive at any tempo. 

His cohorts are the ideal complement; Fedchock has known and played with them for years. Toomey and Ratajczak also attended the Eastman School of Music, and the latter isn’t your average jazz drummer; he also worked in the pit bands for numerous Broadway shows.

Fedchock’s liner notes are excellent and informative, so don't ignore them. Sadly, the Havanah Nights Club — like too many similar venues — folded not long after this live session. Finally, and sadly, Ratajczak passed away from cancer, less than a year later. He’ll be missed.

But be sure you don’t miss this release. It’s an excellent reminder of the top-notch jazz still available in (ever fewer?) venues nationwide

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