Up & Running
One thinks of John Fedchock equally as a trombonist and an arranger. The dual role goes back to his days with the Woody Herman band (1980 until Herman’s death in 1987), when he was section trombonist, soloist and chief arranger—plus musical director. With big-band music still in his blood a couple of years after that experience, he formed his New York Big Band. Although not a road band or full-time aggregation, the 16-piece group has maintained continuity with almost all of its original members and Fedchock’s writing.
This album testifies to the continued modernity of his pen, the suppleness of his trombone work and the unity of the ensemble. It helps that there are a few warm memories of Herman along the way, too. And the band is full of top-notch soloists as well: tenor saxophonist Rich Perry, trumpeter Scott Wendholt, trombonist Steve Davis (in addition to the leader), bassist Lynn Seaton and others.
Fedchock’s writing appears rooted in Thad Jones, who as a composer and arranger had one foot in the swinging, Count Basie big-band tradition and the other in a much richer blend and juxtaposition of harmony. Fedchock’s dissonance is cool rather than agitated, and his section-vs.-section lines mesh with smooth logic.
Along the way, we get his pretty, romantic, big band-era-ballad trombone on the standard “Dedicated to You,” and Perry’s subtle, sinuous tenor on Fred Lacey’s “Theme for Ernie.” On Fedchock’s “Elvin’s Empire,” we get a taste of the classic John Coltrane Quartet adapted for big band, with stirring solos by pianist Allen Farnham and tenor saxophonist Rick Margitza. And on Fedchock’s “Mr. Dudley,” it’s New Orleans revisited—but with quirky melodic and rhythmic twists.