After four albums with his trio and a couple with his Big Sackbut big band, trombonist Joe Fiedler goes the quintet route on Like, Strange. The trio’s rhythm section of bassist Rob Jost and drummer Michael Sarin is joined by Jeff Lederer on tenor and soprano saxophones and guitarist Pete McCann. The expansion naturally opens up more harmonic and coloration vistas, and Fiedler makes the most of the newly available routes from the get-go on “Go Get It,” the feisty, swinging, Jimmy Giuffre-inspired opening track.
As a soloist Fiedler is a master at exploring his instrument’s range—he gets high notes out of it you’d swear were coming from a lead trumpet—and he seems to revel in the tag-team effects he creates when jousting with Lederer and McCann. The advantage, to the listener, is greater texture and wider melodic variation—Fiedler is still the man in charge, no doubt, but compared to his trio work, he’s no longer restricted to milking all of the direction from a sole horn.
Compositionally, Fiedler also spreads out. The press notes state that the title track is inspired by early John Scofield, but it could just as easily be an homage to Philadelphia International. “Maple Avenue Tango” is exotic and mysterious. “Tuna Fish Cans” is driven by Jost’s bass, Sarin’s lockstep groove and the huddled lead players, then veers off into superior soloing territory. And “Yinz,” the album’s closer, is jittery, scattered and chattering at first, grows conversational, breaks loose into tightly framed improvisations and meets up again on common ground as it pulses to a clean stop.