Fred Hess

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Saxophonist/educator Fred Hess resides in Colorado and has been the recipient of the national Julius Hemphill Award for Jazz Composition, amid recording stints with jazz-rock drummer Ginger Baker and others. With this effort, Hess leads a quartet of like-minded modern jazz notables through a compact, yet loosely organized set, consisting of off-kilter bop motifs and free-form exercises. One of the more notable characteristics of this affair has to do with Hess and trumpeter Paul Smoker's warmly executed unison choruses. The soloists converge for a sequence of punchy arrangements while also veering off into explorative-type dialogues. Hence, the artists deliver weaving tapestries of sound in concert with various discourses and groove-based patterns. As they mix it up rather nicely. On the piece titled "Boson," Smoker embarks upon an extended solo consisting of fiery 16th notes atop the rhythm section's swarming attack. Here, the saxophonist provides contrasting tonalities via peppery exchanges and mood-evoking lyricism. And for those who need comparisons, Hess' brainchild might spur notions of Anthony Braxton's nouveau bop approach. But the gist of the matter pertains to the ensemble's acute melding of mainstream frameworks with a deeply personalized methodology. A fine outing it is.

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