When I was a kid I wanted to hear my heroes blow. I bought records and heard great writing, brilliant sidemen, ambitious artistic statements, but what I wanted was a kick-ass blowing session. John Fedchock’s new album would have satisfied me then, and it satisfies me now.
Not that HIT THE BRICKS is free of ambition. Any recording of "Giant Steps" invites a skeptical listening, but Fedchock approaches it as a sketch in moody, shifting harmonies -- not an athletic competition. He lets the inner harmonic motion lead the way rather than bending it to his will.
It’s this kind of maturity that marks all the material on the album. HIT THE BRICKS is a strong, straight-ahead statement: a couple of standards, a blues, some quality jazz tunes and a few originals. Fedchock is joined by seasoned sidemen who are comfortable in their own skins. They play freely but without an agenda of any kind, just solidly doing what they do better than almost anyone else.
The title track, a good old-fashioned burner which I’m pretty sure breaks a few trombone speed limits; Chris Potter’s snaky soprano on "Brazilian Fantasy"; the melodies Dave Ratajczak pulls from the drums on "This Just In"; anything Scott Wendholt plays (surely he’s one of the great unheralded trumpet players); and the luscious ensemble writing on "Moon Alley," Tom Harrell’s simple masterpiece.
But astride it all stands John Fedchock and his incomparable trombone playing, which seems to have no limit, technically or musically. He covers all tempos with equal ease and slips comfortably through the most awkward harmonic corners. He’s inventive and melodic and simply never puts a foot wrong.
I should say a word here for how well engineer Paul Wickliffe has captured Fedchock’s sound. The trombone is a notoriously difficult instrument to record -- something about the complexity of the sound and the variation from player to player (and probably the lack of frequency with which trombone soloists are recorded). This is Fedchock at his warm, fluid best. Over his entire range -- and it is considerable -- the sound is full and complete.
I wish HIT THE BRICKS had been around for me to wear out when I was in high school. I’ve it got now, though, and it will be pleasure making up for lost time.