In the mid-1980s, Joe Fiedler was a jazz student at the University of Pittsburgh, studying the trombone bible according to J.J. Johnson under the tutelage of hard-bop legend Nathan Davis. A math nerd, Fiedler enjoyed the puzzle of chord substitutions, but he felt he was missing something. Then, late one night, as he was driving home from a date, he heard a recording on Public Radio International’s Jazz After Hours that changed his life.
“It was the greatest thing,” Fiedler remembers. “The trombone was growling, smearing against the grain and using a lot of vibrato. It had humor and drama. I told myself, ‘That’s how I want to play, and that’s the road I want to go down.’ I’d been so into bebop, but this put me on a new path. I pulled the car over to the shoulder so I’d be sure to hear [deejay] Jim Wilke name all the players. The trombonist was Ray Anderson.”