INTO THE SHADOWS / FEDCHOCK: RSVP. Alpha Dog. Manaus. Into the Shadows. On the Edge. CAHN-STORDAHL-WESTON: I Should Care. AHBEZ: Nature Boy. RAYE-DePAUL: Star Eyes / John Fedchock NY Sextet: Scott Wendholt, tpt/fl-hn; John Fedchock, tb; Walt Weiskopf, t-sax; Allen Farnham, pno; David Finck, bs; Eric Halvorson, dm / Summit Records DCD 765
Veteran New York trombonist John Fedchock, a longtime member and leader of the New York Big Band, presents here a stellar sextet of musicians playing his original pieces and arrangements. The music is not innovative, but rather harks back to a 1950s jazz sensibility, and that’s fine with me. Not everyone has to sound avant-garde in order to be good.
The main things about this sextet is that they are tight, they swing, and they have no pretensions. Judging from his solos on this disc, Fedchock comes from the Jimmy Knepper school of trombone playing while his pianist, Allen Farnham, combines elements of Horace Silver with a bit of McCoy Tyner. Trumpet/flugelhorn player Scott Wendholt does a slightly less interesting Shorty Rogers while tenor saxist Walt Weiskopf plays in a late-swing style that would not have been out of place in one of Woody Herman’s early-‘50s Herds.
If there was one element of this set that disappointed me a bit, it was the voicing, which is routine and unimaginative. The three horns mostly play together in unison. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but in 2020 one expects something a bit more adventurous considering how many interesting voicings such arrangers as Shorty Rogers, Charles Mingus, George Russell, Benny Golson, Clare Fischer and Rod Levitt created in the 1950s and ‘60s with similar lineups. For whatever reason, when modern-day groups channel the past, amnesia sets in regarding the arranging skills of prior innovators. I did, however, like their Latin-based arrangement of Eden Ahbez’ Nature Boy as well as their rather uptempo version of Don Raye’s Star Eyes.
But as I say, this is a fine straightahead jazz album. Nearly all of the solos are first-rate, with only a few passing by the listener without much notice. In Alpha Dog we finally hear from bassist David Finck, and he, too, provides a good, solid solo.
This is the kind of band that you wouldn’t run away from, since they play good jazz, but neither would you crawl over broken glass to hear them. I give them three fish.
—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley
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