John Fedchock – trombone
Scott Wendholt – trumpet & flugelhorn
Walt Weiskopf – tenor saxophone
Allen Farnham – piano
David Finck – bass
Eric Halvorson – drums
Throughout the history of jazz, groups with a three-horn frontline have been among the more important ensembles of the music. While still giving plenty of space for individual soloists, the configuration has offered unique, creative writing options while maintaining a sleek and mobile blend, avoiding the feeling of a heavier large-ensemble. Immortal recordings by greats including Louis Armstrong, Art Blakey, Miles Davis, Horace Silver, Charles Mingus and John Coltrane set an extremely high standard.
John Fedchock’s illustrious career in jazz has spanned over three decades. Since his emergence on the scene in 1980, Fedchock has established himself as a world-class trombone soloist, a heralded bandleader, and a Grammy-nominated arranger. An in-demand performer and writer in New York City for over twenty years, his multifaceted talents have led him to become one of NYC’s premiere jazz artists.
The inspiration for this group first came in 2000 after recording a few three-horn arrangements. The first official gigs as a sextet came in 2005. This group has become a “working band” maintaining its personnel, developing a group concept, and growing.
A major part of what makes this project unique is the exceptional musicians. All are master improvisers who not only thrive within a modern framework, but also have not forgotten how to swing in a genuine and profound way. Players with these qualities gave Fedchock the freedom to experiment with vintage repertoire by adding a new viewpoint while still maintaining the true essence of the material.
It’s a pleasure to present John Fedchock’s newest music with this close-knit and seasoned group – keeping the distinguished sextet tradition.
John Fedchock’s writing and arranging skills have been admired since his days with Woody Herman. This smaller unit gives him a near-perfect combination of mobility and weight, and with them, confident modernity, even as Fedchock examines some repertory favorites.
The opening “RSVP” is assertively dissonant in its introduction before the Latin-tinged beats kick in and the band soars away. It’s a con- fident and challenging way to start. But impressive as Fedchock’s own writing is, it’s his version of “Star Eyes” that really captures attention here: completely reinvented, owing nothing much to classic interpreta- tions and all building toward the trombonist’s best solo of the set. He does something similar to “I Should Care,” which is played at twice the tempo we’re used to. Brazil is clearly much in his mind, too: “Manaus” is seductively textured and Amazonian in expanse. But the star turn here is the title track, opening on a mournful solo trombone line and maintain- ing the mood of reflective solitude for much of its length. The front line is perfectly balanced, with Fedchock placed in the center of the mix on one of his most poised and assertive recordings yet.
– Brian Morton for DOWNBEAT Magazine
If a sextet—or a group of any size—is to be measured by the sum of its parts, trombonist John Fedchock’s NY Sextet succeeds with flying colors, as it embodies half a dozen of the finest jazz musicians the New York City area has to offer. As we know, however, an inclusive appraisal rests on far more than that, else the musicians could simply set their instruments onstage and await the applause.
Yes, musical talent surely provides an advantage, but above all else players must embrace music that is engaging and worth listening to. Fedchock makes sure it reaches that plateau. As a composer / arranger he has nothing to prove, having cut his creative teeth with the celebrated Woody Herman Herd in 1980 and written for groups large and small since then including his Grammy-nominated New York Big Band. Five of the eight numbers on Into the Shadows are Fedchock originals, and each one is—beyond any doubt— engaging and worth listening to. Good as they are, he fares even better on the standards—”I Should Care,” “Nature Boy,” “Star Eyes”—using his special creative powers to lend them uncommon freshness and vitality. “I Should Care,” usually played as a ballad, is recast as an upbeat flag- waver, “Nature Boy” is implanted in an Afro-Latin groove, and “Star Eyes,” whose lovely melody needs no help, is given a charming rhythmic and harmonic make-over.
Even so, Fedchock saves the best for last: the fiery “On the Edge,” first recorded with the New York Big Band, a hard-nosed swinger on which everyone is nimble and robust. And speaking of “everyone,” it’s time to name names. Trumpeter Scott Wendholt and tenor Walt Weiskopf share the front line with Fedchock; the agile and perceptive rhythm section consists of pianist Allen Farnham, bassist David Finck and drummer Eric Halvorson, an able replacement for Fedchock’s longtime drummer of choice, the late Dave Ratajczak. The session opens with another “standard,” this one well-disguised (Bronislau Kaper’s “Invitation,” renamed “RSVP”), on which Fedchock takes the first of several tasteful solos, followed in order by Farnham, Wendholt and Weiskopf and four- bar exchanges with Halvorson. Fedchock’s shuffling “Alpha Dog” is simply charming, as is the warm and rhythmic “Manaus,” dedicated to a city in Brazil’s Amazon region.
After “I Should Care” and “Nature Boy,” Fedchock changes pace with “Into the Shadows,” on which his expressive trombone states the melody and sets the stage for his own earnest solo and others by Wendholt and Farnham. Solos are, indeed, another of the album’s impressive aspects, as everyone has a sharp and perceptive voice and uses it to good advantage. The framework, however, is Fedchock’s, and it is here that Into the Shadows rises above the ordinary and proves its worth as an album whose primacy and staying power are self- evident.
-Jack Bowers for AllAboutJazz.com
Trombonist John Fedchock’s fluid slide work, celebrated composing chops and arranger’s ingenuity have been put to good use in settings both large and very small in recent years, with a big band set and two live quartet records dropping between 2015 and the present. But rather than choose one of those ensemble formats over the other this time around, he looks to a middle ground with his NY Sextet.
Painting with a three-horn frontline and rhythm section, as on his Live at the Red Sea Jazz Festival (Capri, 2010), Fedchock is able to draw on numerous colors while also keeping things compact and pliable. Opener “RSVP,” an original which works the horns into hard-angled harmonies, extols the virtues of both Latin and swing settings, and features some fine soloing, makes the perfect case for the use of this sized combo. Four other Fedchock compositions surface in the mix—the shuffling “Alpha Dog,” Brazilian-based “Manaus,” contemplative title track and caffeinated blues closer “On The Edge”—and each finds him flexing horn harmonies into beautiful pictures, riding solid grooves, and leaving plenty of space for one and all to shine. As a body of work that, for the most part, was penned in the sheltering shadows at the Yaddo artist retreat in Saratoga Springs, it points directly to the album’s title and umbrella.
Three classics make up the balance of the program, but the arrangements bring the past into the now while circumventing certain expectations. “I Should Care,” for example, surprises with its bright tempo and outro vamp. “Nature Boy” adopts an Afro-Latin accent and forwards a sense of intrigue in its travels. And “Star Eyes,” utilizing straight-time drive, straight-up swing and rich shades and hues, shines as it also pushes forward. With tenor saxophonist Walt Weiskopf and trumpeter Scott Wendholt joining Fedchock out front, and pianist Allen Farnham, bassist David Finck and drummer Eric Halvorson right with and behind them, the level of musicianship is high all around. Everything, understandably, falls right into place on Into The Shadows.
-Don Bilawsky for AllAboutJazz.com
For his 10th album as a leader, Grammy-nominated trombonist John Fedchock scales down his acclaimed New York Big Band to a no less rewarding, smaller ensemble. The sextet boasts an impressive roster of players who more than do justice to Fedchock’s skillful composing and arranging. From the wistful, introspective a cappella lead-in on the title track, to the hard- swinging masterpiece of a solo in “Star Eyes,” Fedchock’s formidable range makes listening to him a supremely satisfying endeavor. He’s also a generous leader, sharing the spotlight with equally virtuosic bandmates like trumpeter Scott Wendholt and pianist Allen Farnham. Fedchock’s “Into the Shadows” shows off a sextet in fine form, helmed by one of the best trombonists and bandleaders in jazz.
A minute or so into the latest leader session from trombonist/composer John Fedchock, I found myself thinking “MAN, do these guys swing hard.” But as the program progressed, I found myself thinking other things. Things like “Holy cow, Fedchock sure knows how to write a horn chart” (check out the contrapuntal lines on “I Should Care”) and “Wait a minute, is ‘Nature Boy’ usually in 12/8?”. As always, Fedchock has gathered a stellar crew around him to bring his original compositions and arrangements to life, and they play with all the tightness and joy you’d hope.
“As usual with John Fedchock albums the bill-of-fare features straightahead, unpretentious swinging music and the group hit the ground running…” -Gordon Jack for Jazz Journal
The JOHN FEDCHOCK NY SEXTET release Into the Shadows (Summit – 765) finds the leader/trombonist/composer/arranger in the company of five cats with whom he has developed familiarity over the years, trumpeter/flugelhornist Scott Wendholt, tenor saxophonist Walt Weiskopf, pianist Allen Farnham, bassist David Finck and drummer Eric Halvorson. Their talent combines with Fedchock’s arranging genius to create the impact of a larger ensemble. In this instance, Fedchock has written an eclectic collection of six originals to complement his concepts on three standards, “I Should Care,” “Nature Boy” and “Star Eyes.” When you have a band of musicians with the solo strengths that these players bring to the table, it is guaranteed that one moment of listening pleasure after another will occur. The album may be titled Into the Shadows, but the excitement that pervades this music is definitely out in the open
-Joseph Lang for Jersey Jazz
Trombonist John Fedchock delivers a straight and no chaser hard bop album reminiscent of vintage Blue Note sessions with a muscular team of Scott Wendholt/tp-fh, Walk Weiskopf/ts, Allen Farnham/p, David Finck/b and Eric Halvorson/dr. All of the tunes sound like the guys drank deep from the Jazz Messenger well as Weiskopf’s big sound swaggers over the shuffling “ Alpha Dog” and the horns create rich harmonies with Fedcchock leaping out in front on his warm “RSVP”. The leader has a gorgeous tone on the melancholy “Into The Shadows” and Wendholt is a delight as he skips along on “I Should Care”. Most intriguing is a dark and modal read of “Nature Boy” with Weiskopf in a Coltrane mood and Farnham giving a full fisted support and solo, while adding silver tones to the sleek “On The Edge”. A toe tapping triumph.
-George Harris for Jazz Weekly
John Fedchock is a savvy and fluid bop-influenced trombonist who, prior to leading his own big band and other smaller groups, did a stellar seven-year stint with the Woody Herman band of the ‘80s, serving as Music Director, featured soloist and one of the band’s prominent arrangers of such numbers as “Blues For Red” and “Come Sunday”.
In this snap, crackle and pop session, Fedchock leads his NY Sextet of Scott Wendholt (trumpet/ flugelhorn), Walt Weiskopf (tenor saxophone), Allan Farnham (piano), David Finck (bass) and Eric Halvorson (drums) through five Fedchock originals and three recognized standards, the latter all in Fedchock arrangements. His signature approach is generally filled with a captivating feeling of approachability, musical interplay that is neither understated nor inflexible.
Opener “RSVP” features an initial section of dissonance before leading into Fedchock’s opening solo. The frame is a Latin vibe pushed along by Halvorson. All the players are given a chance to strut their stuff, forecasting what lies ahead.
In 1961, Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers recorded their first sextet album entitled Art Blakey!!!!! Jazz Messengers!!!!!, which featured a trumpet, trombone and tenor saxophone frontline. Fedchock tips his cap to that iteration of the group with another original entitled “Alpha Dog”. Following an intro of unison harmony by the frontline, Fedchock jumps into his solo, showing he is a player of perspective and assurance, neither of which should come as a surprise. Weiskopf follows with an intrepid solo reminiscent of Wayne Shorter, the saxophonist on the aforementioned Blakey album. The band demonstrates that they are measured and thoughtful improvisers.
The three familiar standards are Axel Stordahl- Paul Weston-Sammy Cahn’s “I Should Care”, Eden Ahbez’ “Nature Boy” and Gene de Paul-Don Raye’s “Star Eyes”, all given updated readings covering a range of styles, tempo and harmonization thereby putting “new wine into old bottles”.
The closer is a blues-infused flag waver “On The Edge”. The theme is set by Farnham as he lays down an intro filled with speed and complexity. Fedchock’s solo is full of improvisational tangents and as each soloist picks up their piece of the composition their offerings are bright and harmonically layered.
– Pierre Giroux for The New York City Jazz Record