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Fred Hess Quartet: Crossed Paths

Crossed Paths (Tapestry) by the Fred Hess Quartet is easy to admire, thanks to Hess’ painstakingly conceived and formally ambitious compositions, his inspired solos, and others by trumpeter Ron Miles and bassist Ken Filiano. Hess is an inventive melodist, both as an improviser and as a composer. His improvisations are deceptively intense. He isn’t an extrovert and doesn’t play loud, but he has tons of good ideas and generates them at a blistering pace.

The ability to self-ignite is important in this band, since drummer Matt Wilson does little to raise the temperature. Filiano is superb; his rhythmic execution is as sharp as broken glass and his solos are among the most viscerally compelling you’ll hear from a bassist. Miles is one of the very finest jazz trumpeters going. His solos on “In the No” and “Knitwit for Tara” are high points on the album. Some might think the tunes are already too long and involved but I wouldn’t mind hearing Hess, Miles and Filiano stretch out a bit more, less encumbered by form and joined by a more violent drummer. But that would be a different album. This one is pretty darn good as it is.

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