Friday, February 12, 2016

John Fedchock's New York Big Band: Like It Is

MAMA Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Like It Is

Hot darn! 

When you’re truly great, you can follow a previous “fantastic” effort with one that’s even better.

This is the fifth release from John Fedchock’s New York Big Band. I’ve reviewed and enjoyed them all, and this one’s no exception. And no surprise: Some of the artists in this unit have been together for 20 years!

Fedchock was part of Woody Herman’s wonderful Herds for years, as both an instrumentalist and chief arranger, so it’s no surprise to expect great jazz from him. This release contains five tunes from the Great American jazz and classics songbooks, along with five originals by Fedchock, who also arranged everything. The classics include “You and the Night and the Music,” “Never Let Me Go,” Duke Ellington’s “Just Squeeze Me,” Cedar Walton’s “Ojos de Rojo,” and the oldie “For Heaven’s Sake.”

Of the Fedchock originals, “Ten Thirty 30” was drawn from Clifford Brown’s music and solos. 

I regard Fedchock as the premier trombonist playing today, which also has been for decades. The tone he gets from his horn is to die for; it’s clear, clean and just plain gorgeous. 

In his day, Tommy Dorsey wasn’t really considered a jazz artist, but he sure had a great tone. Just listen to Fedchock on “Never Let Me Go”; he’s warm and lush. He also swings with the best of them; his solos on five of these charts really groove.

One key factor of Fedchock’s arrangements is the “room” he makes for solo work by his instrumentalists. His charts here include almost 20 solo passages, covering all of the unit’s sections. 

It should be noted that his drummer, Dave Ratajczak, made his final recording during this session; he died just four months later. He was, in the jazz vernacular, a tasty and swinging artist.

Fedchock also fronts smaller groups, in addition to this big band. I probably have most of his albums in my library, which I’m sure is the case with any true jazz collector; Fedchock is great in any venue.

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