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John Fedchock New York Big Band: Like It Is

Two of the leading figures in orchestral jazz have released new albums in 2015, Maria Schneider (The Thompson Fields) and now John Fedchock. For both, it is their first large-format jazz recording in eight years. The economics of big-band jazz are forbidding, yet the two orchestras have sustained relatively stable personnel for over 20 years. They share five musicians. New York’s big-band players are a tight community.

Schneider uses her ensemble for musical autobiography. Fedchock uses his as a high-level laboratory. Like It Is is comprehensive. It encompasses both classic big-band scale and detail (in Fedchock’s impeccable arrangements) and postmodern dissonance (in liberties taken with tunes like “You and the Night and the Music”). Many bases get covered. There are two Latin numbers, Cedar Walton’s headlong, reharmonized “Ojos de Rojo,” and Fedchock’s “Havana,” a snaking, sensual bolero, both driven by guest percussionist Bobby Sanabria. A Fedchock original, “Just Sayin’,” sounds vaguely familiar, like a notion Wayne Shorter might have conceived, broken up and flung around. There is the title track, Fedchock’s funk digression just for fun, and two seriously pensive standard ballads. “For Heaven’s Sake” has a long, flowing, luminous flugelhorn solo by Barry Reis, and “Never Let Me Go” presents the nuanced expressiveness of Fedchock’s trombone playing.

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