Asian-American baritone saxophonist Fred Ho has been a champion of freedom and expressionism in modern creative jazz for some time. A continuing battle with cancer has inspired him to assemble the Green Monster Big Band, with reference to the famed left-field wall at Fenway Park in Boston, but more directly related to the huge sound and diverse ideas this juggernaut ensemble represents. Ho is influenced by the '60s big bands, television or movie themes, and the psychedelic rock he grew up with, all present on this ambitious program. He's recruited heavyweight peers like saxophonists Bobby Zankel, Jim Hobbs, Salim Washington, and Hafez Modirzadeh, trumpeter Stanton Davis and cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, contrabass trombonist Earl McIntyre, bassist Wes Brown, electric guitarist Mary Halvorson, and pianist Art Hirahara, among others to execute his larger-than-life vision. In the extreme at nearly 40 minutes total, "The Struggle for a New World Suite" in seven movements evokes a ton of emotional and rhythmic discourse, starting out sounding like "Smoke on the Water," with curious under-the-surface moods, probing funk, nice jazz, swirling horns in odd meters, stealth or deliberate casts, a free piece subtitled "Guerillas Gone Wild," and ends in a tango inference. "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" is less pronounced but punchy in five parts, with English and Persian lyrics, and the kind of distant organ or large horn insurgency you'd expect in a jazz interpretation of the Iron Butterfly magnum opus. A short and delightful "Spiderman Theme" contrasts, but the remaining tracks "Liberation Genesis" and "Blues to the Freedom Fighters" show more of Ho's intertwining of his compositional concepts with the great ability of his sidemen to solo. There's so much music here that it staggers the imagination, but give it a try and don't be afraid of this green monster, as it's a fairly friendly one, if a bit imposing.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (In the Garden of Eden): Journey to the Dark Heart, Enter the Serpents of Stratification
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (In the Garden of Eden): Where Angels, Mastodons, Sabertooths, and Whales Fear to Tread (Paradise for the Parasites)
The Struggle for a New World Suite: Movement 5 Up Against the Wall You *$%&@# Gods of Corporate Profit!