For fans of the quartet sans chording instrument genre, this CD is heaven. A lot of groups out there are mining this ground, but none I've come across are doing it quite so well. Extended Family is flawlessly executed--seamless, quirky, angular, sometimes whimsical stuff ("Mr. and Mrs. Clef Take a Vacation", a sonic story that involves alien abduction) featuring players with a depth of musical knowledge and serious chops. That I hadn't heard of Hess and company before has to be chalked up to negligence on my part. Perhaps the saxophonist's highest profile work has been with ex-Cream drummer Ginger Baker; and he has also worked with Charlie Haden, Ray Brown, Wynton Marsalis, Wadada Leo Smith and more, and he has also received The Julius Hemphill Award for Jazz Composition. And throw in Ken Filiano's bow work on the bass as a huge plus in dark shading and texturization.
An unexpected and out-of-the-blue-gem. This is what we jazz fans live for.
Many jazz fans who'd love or not love this music might tag it
avant-garde, but it's as steeped in tradition as any Wynton Marsalis
record. It's just that these players have a different, and broader
conception of what tradition is. If such musicians are still working
through ideas brought to jazz 30 and 40 years ago, by now they really know
how to use them. That's why this band works: everyone has learned the
language, and speaks it fluently.
Kevin Whitehead-NPR's Fresh Air (11 Feb 2003)
Born in Abington, Pennsylvania, Hess grew up in New Jersey, attending Trenton State College, before moving to Colorado in 1981. He graduated with a doctorate in music composition from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1991. His early experiences include studies with saxophonist Phil Woods, a stint with bandleader Fred Waring, and composing music for the world premiere of a Sam Shepard play. As a composer, his influences encompass the contributions of the great figures in jazz history, avant-garde classical sources, as well as Anthony Braxton and the members of the AACM. He is currently Director of Composition at The Metropolitan State College of Denver.
Committed to exploring the boundaries of notated and improvised music, Fred Hess attended the Creative Music Studio, Woodstock, NY (1979), founded the Boulder Creative Music Ensemble (1982), Denver’s Creative Music Works Orchestra (1993), and was a member of drummer Ginger Baker’s DJQ.
Recording twelve CDs under his own name, Hess received Colorado’s Composition Fellowship (1986/1994), won Denver’s inaugural Hennessey Jazz Search (1991), the Jazz Composers Alliance, Julius Hemphill Award (2000), and first prize at the First International Jazz Composers Symposium (2006). Favorable articles and reviews have appeared in DownBeat, Jazziz, JazzTimes, Coda, The Wire, JazzWise, Cadence, and online jazz websites.