John Fedchock Quartet
Trombonist and composer/arranger John Fedchock releases his follow-up to 2015’s Fluidity, both albums recorded live during a three-night stint at the now shuttered Havana Nights, in Virginia Beach, VA. Done in quartet format with piano, bass and drums they are a different side of Fedchock, who leads a 16-piece Big Band in NYC. His band is comprised of alumni from some of the best big bands and some of the city’s finest soloists. The big band has released five CDs and Fedchock has received two Grammy nominations for “Best Instrumental Arrangement.” He also leads his own John Fedchock NY Sextet.
Quartets usually feature a saxophonist or trumpeter so it’s somewhat unusual to hear a trombonist. Yet it plays out much like those kinds of quartet albums. He has a warm tone and plays both lyrically and inventively. Much of that credit also goes to John Toomey, a Virginia-based pianist who has been the musical director and keyboardist for Maynard Ferguson and toured with Rene Marie, Mark Murphy, and the Uptown Jazz Quartet. Toomey has played periodically with Fedchock for twenty years and is Fedchock’s go-to pianist whenever Fedchock plays in the Mid-Atlantic states. Bassist Jimmy Masters also has a strong pedigree and drummer Dave Ratajczak is an old friend and colleague of Fedchock who has appeared on every one of Fedchock’s recordings. Unfortunately Rajczak passed due to cancer not long after this performance.
For his part, Fedchock built his career by first performing with and later becoming musical director and soloist for the legendary Woody Herman Orchestra, long known as the “Thundering Herd.” Fedchock was the musical coordinator and chief arranger for Herman’s last two Grammy-nominated albums.
Reminiscence features seven selections, each about six to seven minutes in length. They are a mix of standards and originals. He opens with “The Third Degree,” an original that he composed for his big band. Although the tune swings it’s the opposite of how Fedchock felt when composing the tune when he was suffering from tendonitis in his writing hand, thus the title. “Loose Change” is a tune that he’d been working on but had not performed. He tried it out here for the first time and was happy with the result.
Fedchock adds a Latin beat to the conventional ballad from trombonist J.J. Johnson – “Lament.” He amends another ballad, the well-known “The End of a Love Affair,” by lengthening the song’s form and adding an up-tempo feel at the end. The quartet plays straight ahead through two other well-known standards, “You’re My Everything” and “If You Can See Me Now.” They close with a Fedchock original, “Brazilian Fantasy” that was recorded at the same club a year prior with Billy Williams on drums.
This is a solid live date with excellent solos from both Fedchock and pianist John Toomey. He combines some modern elements with sacred jazz traditions for a warm album.
- Jim Hynes
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