Reminiscence – John Fedchock Quartet
John Fedchock’s Reminiscence is the exciting sequel to his critically acclaimed quartet recording Fluidity. This collection of timeless standards and fresh originals showcases Fedchock’s dynamic trombone and the sensitive rhythm section of pianist John Toomey, bassist Jimmy Masters, and drummers Dave Ratajczak (tracks 1-6) and Billy Williams (track 7).
The program includes jazz classics, If You Could See Me Now (Tadd Dameron) and Lament (J.J. Johnson), iconic standards, The End of a Love Affair (Redding) and You’re My Everything (Warren), and three pieces penned by Fedchock, The Third Degree, Loose Change and Brazilian Fantasy. Recorded in pristine fidelity, the atmosphere of a small club with a receptive audience completes the live experience.
John Fedchock – trombone John Toomey – piano Jimmy Masters – bass Dave Ratajczak – drums (tracks 1-6) Billy Williams – drums (track 7)
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.
“…Over seven compositions, Fedchock’s inviting blend of scintillating tone, ear-wormy hooks and bouncy bop romps are met with wild applause that pull the listener inside the club. From the program’s spirited, jazzed-up get-go on the Fedchock original “The Third Degree”, the quartet are ostensibly deep in a telepathic zone, their built-in chemistry palpable from decades of playing tighter. Running the gamut from red-hot chugging blues, heartstring-tugging balladry, to spunky bop, Reminiscence…is as breezy and laid-back as the Virginia beach the set was recorded near. It’s conversational back-and-forth that swings with abandon, spritzed with improvisation touches.”
–DOWBEAT by Brad Cohan
The trombone is notoriously difficult jazz instrument, because it has no valves–which means that the only way to get from one note to another is either by “lipping” up or down (adjusting one’s embouchure and breath pressure to change pitch) or by sliding. This makes complex melodies tricky, especially at fast tempos–making trombonists who are capable of playing bebop persuasively a relatively rare commodity. John Fedchock is one such player, although on this collection of live tracks (culled from a three-night stand in Virginia Beach) he focuses on midtempo grooves and ballads: three original tunes, three standards, and a composition by JJ Johnson–the man who proved that bop could actually be played on the trombone. (The Johnson tune is a Latin-inflected ballad, though.) Fedchock’s work is always worth hearing, and in this live setting he’s especially engaging.
If you enjoyed John Fedchock’s 2015 release, “Fluidity”, then there is a good chance you will like his new one, “Reminiscence”, as well as both CDs contain material recorded during the same three night run at the nightclub Havana Nights in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Apparently Fedchock was recently going through the tapes of those shows and realized he easily had enough strong material on hand to get one more CD release out of those performances. The closing track on “Reminiscence” is from an older show at the same club, but you would never notice any difference if someone didn’t tell you. Much like “Fluidity”, “Reminiscence” contains a mix of originals and standards all arranged so that everything blends together into a congruent set.
John Fedchock is mostly known for his big band work in NYC where he has been holding concerts and releasing albums for some 20 years now. Despite his success with the large ensembles, John also likes to work with combos in small clubs as it allows the musicians to stretch out and take chances that can’t happen in more heavily arranged ensembles. In Fedchock’s own words, “playing in this (small club) setting allows the players more of a chance to interact and create an intimate conversation through improvisation”. The performers that John has chosen on here are all well known to him and have performed with him many times in the past and include John Toomey on piano, Jimmy Masters on bass and Dave Ratajczak on drums.
“Reminiscence” opens with a couple of up-tempo bluesy originals that establish the players strengths. Fedchock is not a particularly flashy player, but he is a master of endless melodic variations that always swing. Toomey makes for a good contrast to Fedchock, on the up tempo numbers he is apt to get a little crazy with some full fisted attacks that have some similarities to Jaki Byard. On the more laid back tracks he gets more mysterious, sometimes recalling Herbie Hancock’s “Speak Like a Child” album. Solo space for Jimmy and Dave is limited, but maybe that’s not a bad thing, a good rhythm section should feel no shame in providing a swinging drive for the lead instruments. There is a good variety to the song choices with four groove numbers, one Bossa Nova and two semi-ballads. Some call this type of jazz “straight ahead”, which makes for a good description because throughout, John Fedchock avoids any bad detours.
–Jazz Music Archives by John Sanders
John Fedchock, trombone; John Toomey, piano; Jimmy Masters, bass; Dave Ratajczak & Billy Williams, drums.
The trombone is said to be the closest instrumental emulation of the voice. I am always intrigued by the smooth, round sound of the trombone. John Fedchock brings the beauty of this instrument and the sincerity of his emotional connection onto his recording entitled, “Reminiscence”. The spattering of applause after his gusty and satin, smooth fluidity on trombone reinforces that this project was recorded ‘live’. There are no studio fixes here. It is all excellence and improvisational opportunity.
Fedchock opens with his original composition, “The Third Degree” and John Toomey, on piano, plays a swinging solo before passing the baton back to Fedchock. The leader is off and running, making an up-tempo beeline for the goal post. Four minutes in, they trade fours with the drummer, Dave Ratajczak, who spontaneously soaks up the spotlight. Throughout, I find the melody of this first tune sings in your head like a jazz standard. It’s a very catchy melody that pleasantly hums along, as does the next composition by Fedchock, “Loose Change.” Obviously, he’s a fine composer. This tune is a moderate-tempo, bluesy affair. Bassist, Jimmy Masters takes an opportunity to introduce his thick, melodic bass sound to the audience and he also pumps the rhythm up throughout this production.
“What better place to try an untested song but on a live recording,”Fedchock shared about the tune “Loose Change”.
“As it turned out, our first reading of the tune is what appears on this CD. This was the perfect time to debut the piece.”
This recording is a comfortable mix of jazz standards and Fedchock original compositions. The up-tempo swing approach on “The End of a Love Affair,” eloquently showcases Fedchock’s royal chops on his trombone.
Here is a CD pleasant to listen to from beginning to end. Although John Fedchock is known more prominently for his big band sound and has released five recordings of his New York Big Band and received two GRAMMY nominations for “Best Instrumental Arranging,” this diversion to a smaller, more intimate jazz sound is lovely. It allows the listener to hear more of Fedchock in an intimate and comfortable way. You may want to pour a glass of some favorite libation, settle back and enjoy these stellar musicians. This album of music is a throwback tribute to small jazz clubs and the magic that great artists make before a small but packed audience, where we can watch and hear every nuance of jazz in the most friendly and informal of settings. Prop yourself up in your favorite easy chair and enjoy!
–Musical Memoirs by Dee Dee McNeil
“…The John Fedchock Quartet delivers on a multitude of emotional levels…The freewheeling magnificence of the music, the lengthy spirited solos by every quartet member and the delightful responses of the crowd on trombone master John Fedchock’s sizzling, swinging and deeply soulful live album Reminiscence combine to make a great case for every jazz artist forgoing the studio and recording music in its purest, rawest form…”
–JW Vibe by Jonathan Widran
“Reminiscence is a warming and heartfelt recording that features Fedchock and his cohorts in prime form. Their traditionalist approach is completely swinging and sits firmly in the jazz tradition. The playing is certainly praiseworthy and well worth the listen.”
-Jazz Sensibilities by Jeff Becker
“Bandleaders who play trombone don’t get as much critical attention as other instrumentalists and it isn’t due to a lack of them making great CDs. John Fedchock has paid his dues over several decades as a leader and this CD is a follow- up drawing from live recordings made at the same time as his earlier Summit CD Fluidity, taped during a 2013 booking at Havana Nights in Virginia Beach with pianist John Toomey, bassist Jimmy Masters and late drummer Dave Ratajczak.
This is clearly not a case of cleaning out the vault, as these performances are just as strong as those on the previous CD. The musicians are engaging and supporting each other while the assembled music is beautifully paced with plenty of variety.
The snappy “The Third Degree” is breezy bop with a touch of Latin jazz at its best, originally penned by the leader for his big band. Fedchock’s fluid solo seems effortless, supported by his tight rhythm section.
“Loose Change” was a premiere, a swaggering bluesy affair the band devours whole. Fedchock’s arrangement of J.J. Johnson’s “Lament” as a melancholy bossa nova enhances its lush melody, with Toomey’s inventive feature nearly stealing the show.
“The End Of A Love Affair” has long been a standard for jazz musicians, though Fedchock’s brisk setting and rapid-fire attack may be one of the hottest interpretations ever released. The majestic arrangement of Tadd Dameron’s timeless ballad “If You Could See Me Now” is a virtual master class for young trombonists, as Fedchock expertly embellishes the melody ever so slightly and makes great use of space, Ratajczak’s nimble brushes whispering in the background.
The last track, Fedchock’s lively samba “Brazilian Rhapsody”, features the trombonist guesting with Toomey’s trio (Billy Williams on drums), taken from a 2012 show at the same venue. This engaging music will easily stand the test of time.”
–NYC Jazz Record by Ken Dryden
Culled from a pair of concerts in Virginia Beach, VA, trombonist John Fedchock teams up with John Toomey/p, Jimmy Masters/b and Dave Ratajcak-Billy Williams/dr for a mix of originals and jazz standards. The leader shows his affections as he produces along with Toomey a soft and reflective take of JJ Johnson’s classic “Lament” while his solo intro to Tadd Dameron’s “If You Could See Me Now” is bel canto melodic. The rhythm team lays down a rich groove for the leader’s post bopping “The Third Degree” with Williams’ brushes sauntering along on the fun “Brazilian Fantasy.” Ratajczak is crisp for the snappy “The End of a Love Affair” and digs a bluesy pulse for the leader as he slinks along on “Loose Change.” Bonafide and without gimmicks.
-JazzWeekly by George Harris
After recording his quartet’s splendid album Fluidity (Summit Records 2015), trombonist John Fedchock realized he had enough unused material in hand from that delightful concert date to consider releasing a second album. The more he listened to the music that hadn’t made the cut on Fluidity, the more Fedchock was convinced that a second album not only could but should be produced comprising half a dozen songs that for various reasons weren’t included on the earlier recording. “In some instances,” he writes, “the music was newer material, and in other cases it was just informal blowing tunes to give the group a chance to play without the pressure of any agenda.” Even though the unused music was first-rate, Fedchock realized it wasn’t quite enough to encompass a full CD, so he “borrowed” a seventh number (“Brazilian Fantasy”) performed a year before at the same Virginia Beach, VA, nightclub with the same personnel save for drummer Billy Williams who replaced the always-dependable Dave Ratajczak.
Speaking of Ratajczak, he was Fedchock’s timekeeper of choice for more than thirty-five years, and this concert in August 2013 was one of his last gigs before his untimely passing the following October from ocular melanoma. To assert that Ratajczak never sounded better would be gratuitous, as he always sounded ready, earnest and unerring. Here he anchors a rhythm section whose other members are pianist John Toomey and bassist Jimmy Masters. Working together, they lend Fedchock all the support he needs. That is no less true of Williams who turns up the heat with brushes and sticks on the vigorous “Brazilian Fantasy.”
The ensemble opens Reminiscence with “The Third Degree,” a sunny swinger written by Fedchock for his New York Big Band and pared down to quartet size by the composer. Fedchock is in fine form here, as he is throughout, framing a buoyant solo that Toomey follows with another in the same vein before the duo exchange fours and eights with Ratajczak. “Loose Change” swings equally hard, albeit at a more moderate tempo, after which Fedchock shows his mastery of the ballad form on J.J. Johnson‘s dreamy “Lament.” “The End of a Love Affair” cooks from end to end (enhanced by more excellent drumming from Ratajczak), while another standard, “You’re My Everything,” espouses a shuffling groove that leads to a second ballad, Tadd Dameron‘s even-tempered “If You Could See Me Now.” “Brazilian Fantasy” rings down the curtain on another broad and persuasive concert by the superb John Fedchock Quartet.
–All About Jazz by Jack Bowers