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Joe Fiedler: Solo: The Howland Sessions (Multiphonics)

A review of the trombonist's first solo recording

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Cover of Joe Fiedler album Solo: The Howland Sessions
Cover of Joe Fiedler album Solo: The Howland Sessions

The word “funky” does not get applied to a solo horn album very often. Yet a low-down groove runs through “The Jack Rabbit,” the opening track of Joe Fiedler’s solo trombone recital. Even when he strays a bit from the rhythmic kick and moves into more of a solo section, the pulse lingers on. A similar bit of funk threads through “Stinger” as Fiedler delves into a guttural tone, buzzing through the stinger mute that inspired the song, and sounding like one of those Muppets he knows from his day job as a Sesame Street music director.

The Howland Sessions was inspired by the 50th anniversary of German trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff’s solo performance at the Jazz Now! Festival in Munich (and his subsequent album Trombirds). The 1972 festival marked the first time a ’bone player took to the stage alone, inspiring others such as George Lewis, Steve Swell, and Walter Wierbos to explore the format. Rather than pay homage, Fiedler takes Mangelsdorff’s conception as a chance to display his own complex blend of technique and ideas. Throughout the album, he uses multiphonics, blowing through his horn and vocalizing at the same and creating a rich texture in the music.

“The Long No” presents one of the most riveting works; the three-part piece starts off like a ballad rising from the two tones. Over a pedal note, he adds a wah-wah attack, blurring the line between his voice and his instrument. Although the blend of pitches can be harsh at first, they produce a full sound that can make you forget this is a solo performance.

Learn more about The Howland Sessions on Bandcamp


Mike Shanley

Mike Shanley has been a lifelong resident of Pittsburgh and gladly welcomes any visitors to the city, most likely with a cup of coffee in one hand. Over the years, he has written for several alternative weekly papers and played bass guitar in several indie rock bands. He currently writes for the bi-weekly paper Pittsburgh Current and maintains a blog at