It will come as no surprise to listeners of Fred Hess’ The Long and Short of It (Tapestry) that the tenorist holds a doctorate in music composition. The through-composed “Skippin’ In” is just one example of his ability to create a thoughtful and appealing composition that is both strikingly original and unabashedly a jazz work. In some pieces, the line between the written and the improvised is blurred, as he and colleagues Ron Miles on trumpet, Ken Filiano on bass and Matt Wilson on drums seemingly utilize every resource at their command. Extremely technically proficient, Hess can swing conventionally through chord progressions at a lightning pace, but he will also employ the honks, squeaks and squalls of the avant-garde when necessary to make his point. Indeed, his music generally mixes mainstream jazz concepts with less orthodox methods, including instances where the beat is ambiguous. On the programmatic “The Clefs Go to the Big City,” the musical references to “giant insects” and “a wayward elephant” are perfectly clear. This is fresh, imaginative music, expertly performed.