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You Know I Care

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Album Review

It's not often that you pick up a jazz album that contains cover versions of both Anthony Braxton and Cedar Walton tunes. Fred Hess has done that here — and thrown in a bit of Duke Ellington, Roscoe Mitchell, Duke Pearson, and Ornette Coleman to boot. In the telling, such blatant genre-busting might sound gimmicky. On the contrary — this CD is an extremely well-crafted and intelligently conceived affair, without even a whiff of postmodern artifice or pretense. Hess has an obvious affinity for a wide range of jazz-related idioms; he melds them into a cool, brainy, and utterly natural composite. On tenor, Hess has a mellow, Lester-ish tone and what seems to be an encyclopedic knowledge of the tenor giant's style. Still, his melodic sense also draws from the best of more modern idioms. His articulation is smooth and light; harmonically, he's not averse to going "out," though he never discards the changes of a tune for the sake of expedience. He's also a fine flutist in a free bag, as he makes clear on his own "Feynman Series #4." Hess clearly respects the material, and feels an obligation to honor the intent of the composer — without slavishly adopting this or that stylistic convention. The other players are fine, as well; trumpeter Ron Miles is a lyrical presence, as is altoist Mark Harris. Bassist Mark Simon has a nice, pliable sound. Drummer Rudy Royston swings hard. Pianist Art Lande is a tasteful and inventive player who can play as percussively or as gently as the occasion demands. The band is very well-rehearsed, the performance is about as cohesive as it can be without losing its edge. A pretty terrific album that proves the history of jazz need not be carved into little unrelated chunks.


Born: 1944 in Abington, PA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Over the years, veteran tenor saxophonist Fred Hess has shown himself to be a versatile, broad-minded, highly flexible musician/composer who can handle a wide variety of jazz settings. Like fellow saxophone explorer Joe Lovano -- who he has often been compared to -- the Colorado resident is happy and inspired in avant-garde situations, but is also quite capable of playing in what jazz musicians describe as "the tradition," which refers to straight-ahead jazz (hard bop, bebop, cool jazz, swing, post-bop,...
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You Know I Care, Fred Hess
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