Monday, August 31, 2015

John Fedchock's New York Big Band - "Like It Is"

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

"Cheerful syncopation, served with spit-and-polish precision."
— The New York Times

"John Fedchock's New York Big Band commands your attention and holds it."
— DownBeat
"An unabashed celebration of the large band format."
— The Chicago Tribune
"Tantalizing big-band Jazz, served New York-style."
— Cadence

“Big band music has made some dramatic changes over the years, and even though many embrace this evolution, there seem to be plenty of folks who'd prefer everything just remain like it was. But truth be told, some of the best things in music have come from combining the "like it was" with the "like it is", melding the greatness of the past with a fresh perspective using today's ears, approaching each piece like a drawing of familiar images sketched in an abstract form. ….

Over these past many years, I like to think the band has evolved in many ways. Those changes may not have been dramatic, but I do believe we've always done what we could to honor both the "like it was" and the "like it is". I hope you enjoy this recording. We had a great time making it for you.”
- John Fedchock

Ann Braithwaite and her fine team at Braithwaite & Katz do a lot of nice things for Jazz, not the least of which is to own and operate a media relations firm that distributes sample music and detailed press information on behalf of Jazz artists who are releasing new CDs.

Every so often I try to return the favor by posting her narratives to JazzProfiles.

Such is the case with the following annotation which Ann sent out to accompany the August 7, 2015 release of Like It Is,  trombonist John Fedcock’s New York Big Band’s latest CD on the MAMA Foundation [MAA 1048].

You can be find out more about John and his big band at and sample the tracks from his new CD at

Order information is available through most online retailers.

If you are into big band Jazz, give yourself a treat as John’s latest effort is a corker. He is a major force in Jazz orchestration today and an arranger and composer who interposes elements of his own innovations into the Jazz tradition thereby keeping it alive and robust while at the same time helping to move it forward. Somewhere the spirits of Fletcher Henderson, Don Redman and Benny Carter are sure to be smiling and no doubt wishing him well.

© -  Ann Braithwaite, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

The John Fedchock New York Big Band's Like It Is - to be released by MAMA Records on August 7, 2015 - is the fifth album for the 16-piece ensemble and Fedchock's eighth as leader. This pristinely recorded studio session showcases Fedchock's compelling compositions and arrangements as well as the band's exceptional musicianship. The group, which has been together for over two decades and recorded four previous releases on Reservoir, sets the standard for modern, post-swing large ensembles and has brought Fedchock to the GRAMMY finals for his notable arranging skills. Like It Is features five Fedchock originals and five arrangements of jazz and American classics.

Having first made a name for himself in the 1980s as chief arranger for the legendary Woody Herman, Fedchock has continued to develop his writing style over his 35-year career, and this recording shows his inventive flair in meshing the old with the new. His comments regarding the evolution of the genre explain the album's title: "Even though many embrace the big band's evolution, there seem to be plenty of folks who'd prefer everything just remain like it was. But truth be told, some of the best things in music have come from combining the 'like it was' with the 'like it is', melding the greatness of the past with a fresh perspective using today's ears." He backs up his words with what might be his most ambitious work to date, expertly melding fresh new colors with iconic traditional elements and skillfully interweaving those sounds to underscore the progressive solo voices within the band.

There are plenty of chances to hear the band's profusion of solo talent. Eleven different soloists grace this recording, and all are New York City stalwarts. Saxophonists Mark Vinci, Charles Pillow, Rich Perry, Walt Weiskopf, Gary Smulyan and Scott Robinson; trumpeters Scott Wendholt and Barry Ries, pianist Allen Farnham, bassist Dick Sarpola and drummer Dave Ratajczak all contribute contrasting solo statements perfectly complementing the music. Bobby Sanabria's Latin percussion joins the band on three tracks, lending a strong dose of excitement.

Fedchock's multifaceted trombone playing is also showcased on six tracks, all displaying a different side of his abilities. From speedy and aggressive runs on "You And The Night And The Music" and "Ten Thirty 30," to medium-tempo post-bop forays on "Just Sayin'" and "Hair Of The Dog," to more mellow and soulful statements on the ballad "Never Let Me Go" and in his Cuban bolero original "Havana," Fedchock thoroughly covers the stylistic gamut. Through it all, flawless technique, a melodic approach, and a warm, lush tone remain the trademarks of his improvisational style. Coming on the heels of his critically acclaimed 2015 Summit Records quartet release Fluidity, about which Kirk Silsbee of DownBeat magazine wrote, "one wonders how the trombonist would have sounded next to Clifford Brown.” Fedchock confirms his status as an A-list horn stylist.

The material Fedchock chose to arrange on Like It Is represents a special balance of familiar themes and fresh, original works. The opening track, "You And The Night And The Music" embodies Fedchock's thought process in blending past and present. "My goal was to mask the original structure of the age-old classic while keeping things familiar enough to flex into a more standard context for the soloists/' the bandleader explains. Other classics that receive Fedchock's updated look include Cedar Walton's "Ojos de Rojo" as a full-fledged Latin flag-waver, a tongue-in-cheek version of the Gaines/Ellington classic "Just Squeeze Me" and a pair of lush ballads from the American Songbook: "Never Let Me Go" and "For Heaven's Sake."
Also included in this outing are five Fedchock originals.

The title track harkens back to the sound of 1960s boogaloo and funky cha-cha but is approached from a modernist's perspective, and the quirky blues, "Hair Of The Dog" creates a somewhat programmatic journey. "Havana" transports the listener to a warm Cuban evening; the jaunty "Just Sayin'" shows off an impressive brass section; and "Ten Thirty 30," commissioned for the Clifford Brown Symposium, displays thematic material drawn exclusively from Brown's music and solos updated into a compelling closer. The title comes from the simple abbreviation of Clifford's October 30,1930 birthdate.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Fedchock began his career in 1980 as a jazz trombonist with the legendary Woody Herman Orchestra, serving as featured soloist, musical director and chief arranger for Herman's last two Grammy nominated albums. Herman said of Fedchock, "He's my right hand man. Everything I ask of John he accomplishes, and I ask a lot. He's a major talent." Fedchock has also toured with Gerry Mulligan, T.S. Monk, Louie Bellson, and the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, and has performed as a featured soloist, composer and conductor around the world.

With the release of Like It Is, the next chapter has been written for the John Fedchock New York Big Band. As with his previous recordings, this project showcases Fedchock as an artist who will continue to have a hand in guiding and shaping the direction of big band music for years to come.

The following video features John’s exquisite orchestral shadings on the ballad For Heaven’s Sake featuring Barry Ries on flugelhorn.

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