Monday, September 21, 2020

CD Review: Joe Fielder's Big Sackbut - Live In Graz

Joe Fielder's Big Sackbut
Live in Graz
(Multiphonics Music)

A choir requires more than four people to produce a big, impressive sound. Yet while listening to Live in Graz, the latest by trombonist Joe Fiedler's three 'bones/one tuba group, the sound produced by just a quartet of brass sounds rich and expansive, like it emanated for a bigger group. 

Even more impressive is that the player with the foundational responsibility, Jon Sass, was filling in for Big Sackbut's regular tuba player Marcus Rojas. He sounds like a natural as he supports the other players, grooves along or takes a solo. (The album begins with an unaccompanied solo from him.) 

Although it's tempting to draw numerous parallels between the group and choirs, Joe Fiedler's intention with Big Sackbut is more concerned with the sum of the parts (i.e. each player's musical personality) than the whole (the one big sound). Live in Graz also acts as a tribute to the late Roswell Rudd, a trombonist whose sense of adventure is reflected in Big Sackbut. Three of the nine tracks were Rudd compositions. Among the others, Fielder's "Tonal Proportions" was inspired by lessons from Rudd, and the group tackles a track from Charles Mingus' gutsy Oh Yeah album.

Ryan Keberle and Luis Bonilla are Fielder's 'bone brothers in the group. Each gets to put his personality on display. Fiedler sounds especially astounding in "Yankee No-How" during a rapidly-executed ran across his instrument's range, much of tongued and not slurred, following already solid work by Keberle and Bonilla. The latter opens Mingus' "Devil Woman" with a raunchy, unaccompanied solo that has some vocal qualities due his deft use of a mute. At times he approximates a distortion pedal, a characteristic that shows up in "Su Blah Blah Buh Sibi," another Rudd tune with a low deep groove from Sass.

The group's tone experiments could digress into parlor tricks, but Big Sackbut will have none of that. Fiedler's upper register solo in "Peekskill" keeps things serious, never digressing into squawks. His tonguing skills are put on display again in "Ways" as he engages in high swoops. For Bonilla's work, he uses space expertly during "Bethesda Fountain," adding to the impact of the band. 

Whether or not a listener chooses to track which trombonist is soloing when (the cover provides an order), the group itself comes across as a strong and powerful, spilling from one tightly arranged section into solos with ease and energy.

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