Of all the places to assemble a big band, New York City of course offers the most talented performers, either residents or non-natives who are passing through for other engagements. Many of these musicians, like Allen Farnham, Bobby Sanabria or Charles Pillow who play on No Nonsense,
embark on their own separate recording careers. Small wonder, then, that the musicians of Fedchock’s New York Big Band add some spirited excitement to the music, over and above what others would create just by reading the music. Fedchock knows this, and while he doesn’t write his charts with specific musicians in mind, he does allow them sufficient space for invigorating solos and broad colors across the rich palette of his arrangements.
Formerly the musical director and chief arranger for one of Woody Herman’s last bands, Fedchock writes music that contains a similar sense of Herdsmen’s conviviality, and the musicians of NYBB just as enthusiastically enjoy the opportunities presented by Fedchock’s music.
With an energetic notching up of a tune’s possibilities through slowly increasing tension and gratifying resolution, The New York Big Band transforms the shuffling, low-volume subtlety of Oscar Pettiford’s "Tricotism" (featuring a long and illuminating solo by bassist Lynn Seaton), into a light swing capped off by Fedchock’s solo, notable not only for its apparent ease despite difficult articulation, but also for its musical eloquence. Swing is important to Fedchock on his own composition, "Big Bruiser," on which saxophonist Rich Perry contributes a low-key improvisation in something approaching a Lester Young float, extending phrasing across the measures and seemingly unfastened to the changes that the rest of the band plays behind him. No Nonsense
includes a majority of original Fedchock compositions, but he also includes some tunes by musicians, such as Freddie Hubbard ("Eclipse") and Joe Henderson ("Caribbean Fire Dance"), whom he admires. Consistent with Fedchock’s writing for the band, these tunes allow for memorable solos, such as trumpeter Barry Ries’ on "Caribbean Fire Dance," wherein he trades choruses with himself, one unmuted and fiery and the other constrained by a Harmon mute. On the other hand, Scott Robinson’s baritone sax work on Ellington’s "Come Sunday," redolent of the spiritual nature of the song made memorable by Mahalia Jackson’s powerful performance on Black, Brown and Beige,
captures its intended depth of feeling. Fedchock also pulls out his older arrangement of Thelonious Monk’s "Epistrophy," first written for Woody Herman’s band, which features the quirky melody on saxophone against the tripleted figures on trombones and piano.
With No Nonsense,
John Fedchock confirms that the sound of his New York Big Band is one that realizes his own vision that he hears.... and that its sound remains unique, even as it borrows from some of the famous bands that preceded it.