John Fedchock Quartet: Fluidity

“Concept” seems to be the selling point of choice for a preponderance of releases these days. There’s always an angle to be played, whether paying tribute to a fallen icon, importing high-profile guest artists, saluting a composer or mashing jazz with another genre. With the aptly titled Fluidity, the undersung trombonist John Fedchock foregoes concept in favor of a satisfying old-school approach to album programming. Fedchock’s quartet, caught live over three nights at the now-defunct Virginia Beach club Havana Nights, offers a set of finely wrought standards hinged to the resonant tones and agile melody readings and improvisations of its leader.

The set opens on a laidback note, with Fedchock offering a mellow reading of “East of the Sun” and then romping through a rangy solo over a midtempo swing groove, handily demonstrating his fluidity as an improviser. Pianist John Toomey follows with a similarly engaging turn, gracefully building and rebuilding momentum with the help of bassist Jimmy Masters. The latter’s solo is followed by dexterous brushes playing from drummer Dave Ratajczak, a longtime Fedchock associate who died last year.

Graceful, urgent swing is the main theme here, with the quartet also turning in a bustling “I Hear a Rhapsody,” bolstered by creative eights trading; a bouncy “Weaver of Dreams”; and a tastefully accented, slightly rearranged “The Days of Wine and Roses.” The quartet effectively shifts down, too, drawing out the inherent beauty of “Make Someone Happy” and “I’ve Never Been in Love Before.” Joe Henderson’s “Homestretch” pushes the group into grittier hard-bop terrain, and Fedchock heads into modal territory on his own “Under the Radar,” inspiring some of the musicians’ most adventurous playing.

Philip Booth

Philip Booth is a longtime arts journalist and bass player based in Florida. Formerly the pop music critic for the Tampa Tribune, he has contributed to many national publications, recently including the Washington PostJazziz, and Relix. His byline also has appeared in DownBeat, Bass Player, Billboard, Variety, Spin, Rolling Stone, and several academic journals. The debut CD from his band, Acme Jazz Garage, gained airplay on about 35 radio stations across the US.