Fred Hess Band : In the Grotto

Abundant energy and a freewheeling attitude make this inside/outside session a delightful ride. Hess, a tenor saxophonist based in Denver, leads a strong, pianoless quintet through complex, carefully drawn labyrinths, with many touch points to the 1960s and frequent excursions toward free jazz. Bassist Ken Filiano’s rubbery solos and Matt Wilson’s shape-shifting drum work command attention on nearly every track, while Hess and fellow sax player John Gunther spar gleefully above them. And Ron Miles ices the cake with his easygoing, engaging touch on trumpet.