Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Fred Hess Big Band: Hold On

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

Fred Hess has never met a re-harmonized chord, or a free exploration, or a wide-open dissonant voicing he didn’t like. On his 14th album as leader, you’ll meet all of the above, and then some. The multi-faceted tenorist/arranger from Denver — where he’s Director of Music Composition at Metro State College — has been itching for years to express his avant-garde inclinations in the context of a big band. For nearly a decade, he experimented with what became the nucleus of the 16-piece band heard here: trumpeter Ron Miles, bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Matt Wilson.

Don’t think for a moment avant is all you’ll hear. Hess is too curious an artist to confine himself to one genre, or even one era. Take the coupling “Sicillienne/Greensleeves.” The first is by French impressionist Gabriel Fauré; the second, an ancient modal English folk tune. Hess treats both with reverence, turning the first into a gentle jazz waltz featuring himself on tenor, and trombonist Nelson Hinds, then juxtaposes the second as an impressive showcase for bassist Filiano.The very next track, “Opposites Attract,” tends to go “outside,” after Filiano takes an excellent bowed solo. Trumpeter Miles expands the harmonic edge to the limit, while drummer Wilson provides appropriately muscular punctuation. The title tune is a somewhat retro throwback as Hess and Dominic Lalli engage in a tenor battle.” A Night to Remember” allows Hess to pay homage to his “original sax hero,” Bill Perkins.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published