Earlier this month I had the pleasure of taking part in a recording session by the Fred Hess Big Band. Fred’s music is always a fun challenge to play, but spending the better part a whole week in rehearsals, a concert, and of course the recording itself added a new human dimension. Instead of struggling on my own to get my own parts down, showing up for the gig, playing the tunes once with a handful of musicians, and then going home, it was an experience shared with at least 17 other people and lkely to be remembered by all of us for a long time.
It started with a day of rehearsal. Fred’s charts are very complex and require a fair amount of explanation:
Tyler Gilmore of the 9th & Lincoln Orchestra served as conductor, so Fred could concentrate on playing. Tyler was the glue that held the whole thing together:
However, Fred led the band during our reading of his infamous “The Clefs Visit Grandma’s”. I suppose the most relevant thing I can tell you about this chart is that the idea of me getting up from the piano and taking a picture in the middle of the performance was not out of character for the piece:
One of the highlights of the week – and indeed, of my whole career – was working with drummer Matt Wilson and bassist Ken Filiano. As is the custom during most recording sessions, both Matt and Ken were in an isolation booths:
This was a little disappointing, as part of what makes a rhythm section work is close communication, and that’s difficult when you can’t even see each other. Luckily, the gig we did at Dazzle that week was another story entirely, and that was magical:
Matt and Ken have been Fred’s recording and NYC rhythm section for several years now and know his music pretty well, but Ron Miles has an even longer history with Fred. Working with Ron was another highlight for me. Although we have performed together several times before, and both Ron and I have recorded with Fred individually, this is the first recording Ron and I have been on together.
Here are a few of final shots, of the saxophone and trumpet sections and of engineer Colin Bricker: