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Year of the Tiger

Fred Ho

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Album Review

To approximate the first half of Fred Ho's album Year of the Tiger, it's necessary to imagine the sound that might be created if the members of Duke Ellington & His Orchestra were mixed with the players from Parliament/Funkadelic and set loose on the Michael Jackson and Jimi Hendrix catalogs. That's right, songs like "Thriller" and "Purple Haze" get severely retrofitted into an aggressive, irreverent jazz-funk style, with harsh, massed horn parts. Sometimes, the sound resembles a couple of high-school marching bands fighting it out on the same football field. In the second part of the album, Ho takes a more conventional jazz approach, that is, if "conventional" can be taken to mean a post-bop big-band style in which a horn ensemble is employed for avant-garde purposes. And then there's the children's chorus that pipes up on the Oriental-styled "Hero Among Heroes." This is ambitious, challenging jazz, occasionally made somewhat more accessible by the leader's evident zany sense of humor.

Biography

Born: August 10, 1957 in Palo Alto, CA

Genre: Jazz

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

Fred Ho's prodigious gifts as a jazz composer were equaled (and augmented) by his drive to effect social change. Ho's leftist leanings informed virtually every piece of music he wrote, often by means of clumsily written agitprop lyrics. The results could be humorous and/or moving, but were more often than not simply leaden. Ignore the heavy-handed preaching, however, and Ho was a sensitive and imaginative composer who learned the lessons of Duke Ellington and applied them to post-Coltrane jazz. Ho...
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Year of the Tiger, Fred Ho
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