Dale Fielder Group/Force
Clarion Jazz 80303
Howling Monk by the Dale Fielder Group/Force is Dale Fielder’s 8th recording. It very well may prove to become an historic release. There is much to like on this disc: the telepathic interplay of the four Group/Force members (there’s nothing like a band that stays together); the exciting collection of jazz classics and new originals; the introduction of a major new voice on that much loved, but often neglected instrument - the baritone saxophone; the documentation of one of the few saxophonists in jazz who actually plays all four saxophones not as mere doubles, but with an individual voice on all four horns; and the further blossoming of a major new piano talent in young Danny Grissett, a young man destined to do great things in jazz. All in all, the listener will truly feel that she or he, has gotten their money’s worth in purchasing this new disc.
From the very first cut, "Ad Astra", one is immediately struck by the feeling of familiarity and newness that the members of the Group/Force effortlessly convey. In mining an obscure original by baritone sax legend Pepper Adams as his baritone debut, Fielder proves a point that he told me many years ago that “people foolishly think that the bebop idiom has been exhausted. That there’s nothing new to say. There is no other better medium or higher form of music where one can use structure to liberate one’s improvisations. Where else can you play the same tunes over and over again for a lifetime and never run out of discovering new ideas and ways to play them? Imagine what Bird or Trane would sound like now? Easy, - just listen to (Sonny) Rollins or Charles (McPherson). Mastering the bebop idiom has made them well acknowledged as among the greatest musical improvisers alive on the planet today. There’s so few of them, because few have really truthfully mastered the idiom.” On hearing "Ad Astra", it is apparent that Fielder is well on his way to mastering the idiom. He starts his solo at a level most musicians end with and takes us on a trip to further levels of urgency and passion. And thus the formula is established throughout these discs as Grissett, Ware and White perfectly match Fielder with heartfelt intensity throughout. The high point of the first disc comes on "My Favorite Things", a composition that is curiously absent from most musicians’ repertoire. Most feel that it is sacred Coltrane territory and Fielder says that for a long time he too never considered playing the tune. A conversation with Fielder’s manager Leonard Herring, Jr. was most illuminating as he booked Coltrane into Babe Baker’s Jazz Corner while a student at the University of Cincinnati back in the 1960s, and maintained a continual personal and professional relationship with Coltrane until his untimely death in 1967. Herring said that he has never heard anyone evoke the spirit and sound of Trane on the soprano, yet you are aware that this is a different player altogether. You can hear the audience’s reaction confirming Herring’s statement. They just go nuts! Truly gutsy stuff! Other highlights are the transitions from the first 3 compositions, "Ad Astra" into Fielder's "Petite Story" and "Raina's Theme". All 3 compositions flow into each other much like a mini suite. Fielder's baritone is absolutely glowing on "All of You" as each member stretches out on the standard. Fielder covers Dizzy Gillespie's "I Waited for You" as the ballad feature and Coltrane's "Moment's Notice" as the closer. Sandwiched in between is the absolute smoker "Anolmalies" where Fielder and Grissett burn like nobody's business!
This CD firmly establishes Dale Fielder as perhaps one of the missing links in jazz – an artist who is firmly established in the jazz tradition, yet is one who is looking into the future of jazz and is constantly coming up with new things and new ways to grow. With this new CD, we are witnessing the emergence of an important jazz composer and saxophonist.