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I Hear Sparks: John Fedchock NY Sextet – Live at the Red Sea Jazz Festival

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Led by trombonist and composer John Fedchock, the sextet that drives Live at the Red Sea Jazz Festival is comprised of erudite soloists fully in command of their respective instruments. The John Fedchock NY Sextet actually makes its recording debut with this live album taken from a performance at the Israel-based jazz festival.

The Red Sea Jazz Festival takes place in a resort town in Israel called Eliat. The liner notes of the record illustrate the festival’s environment as one filled with knowledgeable jazz fans. There’s also the heat, described as “a bit milder” during the night-time set but still around 90 degrees.

The John Fedchock NY Sextet is comprised of trumpeter Scott Wendholt, tenor saxophonist Walt Weiskopf, pianist Allen Farnham, bassist David Finck, drummer Dave Ratajczak, and of course John Fedchock on trombone.

The set recorded for Live at the Red Sea Jazz Festival rolls through six tracks, four of which are Fedhock originals. They also cover the Ellington/Tizol classic “Caravan” and work through a Tom Harrell number.

Much of the set is based around soloing, with each member having multiple moments under the hot sun to ply his trade for the lucky audience. Fedchock’s arrangements are, by design, quite spacious and allow for a lot of room to punch through notes and work through generous solos and sparring opportunities with joyful faculty.

Fedchock is tasked with introducing the record with his own solo on “This Just In.” He is an assured, secure player and he works through lines with smooth aptness. The light bounce provided by Finck and Ratajczak offer glowing, graceful pillowing for the solo.

Elsewhere on “Elvin’s Empire,” Weiskopf’s tenor steps into a lovely opening left by a concise Fedchock solo and a cozy round of piano. The track is a tribute to Coltrane’s drummer Elvin Jones.

“Caravan” makes for my favourite track on the record. Almost fourteen minutes long, it is a dynamic and roomy piece of beat and drama. Ratajczak owns the number wholly, setting an early pace that builds pressure before his solo stops traffic. He is deliberate: clanging cymbals and insistent snares are all a part of his rhythmic armoury.

Live at the Red Sea Jazz Festival is a terrific introduction to the John Fedchock NY Sextet. These musicians are in their elements, playing soulfully in front of an enthusiastic and conversant crowd. It is a privilege that they have put the performance to record so that we all might enjoy it as the audience did on that scorching night in Eliat.

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