As a follow-up to the New York Big Band CD, trombonist John Fedchock has gone that disc one better, not so much in improvising the band or song selections, but infusing more energy and excitement into the proceedings. As a mature player who also writes, he offers hefty charts that his players can dig their musical teeth into. He's also able to put his own modern, mainstream stamp on the jazz of this 20-25 piece band. It's not a head-solos-tail ABA proposition; instead, charts are written to fill cracks, intersect, or connect solos, and to create transitions between segments.
Fedchock wrote four of the 11 tracks. The title cut is a good, wailing swinger a la Count Basie, Thad Jones, or Mel Lewis, as is "The Chopper" for Woody Herman. As the leader, Fedchock takes artistic license to solo extensively, but on a bluesy, shuffling "The Chopper," baritone saxophonist Scott Robinson obliges with a big, scattishly low-slung solo contrasting the trombonists quick-witted improv. A Latin mambo-cha cha with Charles Pillow's puckish soprano and Scott Wendholt's tumbleweed trumpet solos is the centerpiece of "That's All Right!," while "The Third Degree" is a high flying number a la Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland, with Rich Perry's solo very much like Joe Henderson in soul and stance. The standards have different perspectives from various modern jazz aspects. Lee Morgan's "Ceora" has the standard slight Brazilian feel with wafting flutes joining upper register horns and reeds, and an active, energizing solo by pianist Allen Farnham. "Virgo" by Wayne Shorter is lush and exotic, while a nice bluesy version of Billy Strayhorn's "Isfahan" best displays Fedchock's warm sound and Mark Vinci's lithe alto work. The Jaco Pastorious number "Teen Town" has Fedchock playing the second line melody on his trombone -- a tricky, difficult part written for an electric bass (more capable of playing this fast), but Fedchock pulls it off. The highlights are the Thad Jones piece "Ain't Nothin' Nu" with Fedchock's original chart, the hardest swinger of the date with Greg Gisbert's fleet trumpet solo, and Rich Perry & Rick Margitza squaring off on individual tenor sax solos. An interp of Oliver Nelson's "111-44" is precious, a power-packed chart loaded with soul and dynamics, where the band acts as if it was written for them -- again Vinci and piquant trumpeter Tim Hagans get the spotlight on this tune that has been neglected in the larger Nelson repertoire. Then there's "Angel Eyes," echoing love and regret with high-end drama and dynamics to suit the disparity between these two undeniably linked emotions. Highly recommended, and a must-buy for those who cherish this style of music.