Harold Fethe

Out of Nowhere

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Jazz musicians, in many cases, are not only jazz musicians -- they are also everything from anesthesiologists to paralegals to software developers. In other words, there are many talented jazz players who haven't always played music on a full-time basis but still have chops. Harold Fethe is one of them; the guitarist spent 25 years in biotechnology, although he retired from that field in 2002 and became a full-time musician. Out of Nowhere is his first album as a leader. Stylistically, this very lyrical and accessible effort recalls the gypsy swing of Django Reinhardt and St├ęphane Grappelli, and one person who greatly adds to the Euro-swing ambiance is the album's special guest: veteran violinist Johnny Frigo (who was 87 when this recording was made in 2004). Frigo's participation alone makes Out of Nowhere worth the price of admission; Frigo is in fine form on familiar standards like "Alexander's Ragtime Band," "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise," and "September in the Rain." Fethe is a skillful improviser himself, as are participants Jim Cox (acoustic bass) and Joe Vito (who plays mostly acoustic piano but is heard on accordion on "You and the Night and the Music," Jimmie Davis' "You Are My Sunshine," and the Latin-flavored Fethe original "Cuenca Mercado"). Although Out of Nowhere is primarily an instrumental date, Chicago-based singer Joanie Pallatto offers thoughtful performances on the Frigo/Soft Winds standard "Detour Ahead" and Leon Russell's "This Masquerade." Out of Nowhere could have been less standards-minded; instead of embracing so many overdone tunes that have been recorded time and time again over the years, Fethe should have surprised us by unearthing more lesser-known gems. Regardless, this is an enjoyable debut from Fethe, who demonstrates that biotech's loss was jazz' gain.

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