John Fedchock Quartet Live – Fluidity – Summit Records

John Fedchock Quartet Live – Fluidity – Summit Records DCD 653, 71:11 ****:

(John Fedchock – trombone; John Toomey – piano; Jimmy Masters – bass; Dave Ratajczak – drums)

For seven years in the 1980s, John Fedchock was an integral part of the last of The Woody Herman Herds. While not necessarily an exceptional soloist, he composed several tunes for the band such as Blues For Red, The Great Escape and was the go-to arranger on Woody’s final recordings – namely 50th Anniversary Tour and Woody’s Gold Star. This quartet outing was recorded live at Havana Nights in Virginia Beach, Virginia in August 2013, and provided Fedchock an opportunity to stretch out and test his chops. He demonstrated without doubt that he is an attractive forceful hard-bop styled trombonist.

In a set-list that stretches over nine tunes, the compositions are mostly covers of numbers that are readily recognizable, but also contain a couple of Fedchock originals for good measure. All tracks were arranged by Fedchock in an uncomplicated style that befits a club date. Leading off is that old chestnut “East Of The Sun” that was a staple of The George Shearing Quintet.  After pianist John Toomey offers a lovely four-bar opening, Fedchock indulges in some stop-time playing of the melody before taking-off on his solo flight. Throughout there are terrific exchanges among the band members, along  with some feather-light brush work from drummer Ratajczak. The first of two Fedchock compositions is called “Havana” named undoubtedly for the club Havana Nights. As befits the name, it a Latin-influenced theme in a slow tempo that has a dark pensiveness about it. Fedchock carries it off with aplomb, ably supported with some fine piano from Toomey.

The other Fedchock number is “Under The Radar” and could not be any more different from “Havana”. It is a dense piece in minor key filled with intensity. It features conflicting loyalties between structure and embellishment. It is uncertain which side wins, but it is a provocative speculation. Henry Mancini’s “Days Of Wine And Roses” is the kind of composition that offers a solid frame which allows musicians to build interesting solos and that is not different here. Taken at a brisk pace, it is perfectly suited to Fedchock’s glissandos and arpeggios which are sprinkled throughout his solo. Pianist Toomey in his solo space, finds room to quote “The Surrey With Fringe On Top” as he roams the keyboard.

To close out this live session the band tackles Joe Henderson’s well-named “Homestretch”. Fedchock’s decisive but arresting style works well with the tune’s structure and everyone pitches in with a solid effort. There is a well-executed exchange between Fedchock and drummer Ratajczak. The latter was a long time musical cohort of Fedchock and sadly within a year of making this recording, lost his struggle with cancer.   This is an auspicious recording by a classy and exciting band.

TrackList: East Of The Sun; Havana; I Hear A Rhapsody; Make Someone Happy; Under The Radar; Weaver Of Dreams; The Days Of Wine And Roses; I’ve Never Been In Love Before; Homestretch

—Pierre Giroux

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