Joe Fiedler Trio – The Crab (CF 092)
You see a lot of jazz trio recordings with either piano, guitar, or saxophone accompanied by bass and drums. A trombone-led trio recording really stands out, simply by virtue of the relatively unusual lead instrument. The Joe Fiedler Trio proves that, in the right hands (and on the right set of lips), the trombone is an extremely expressive, supremely malleable instrument that is capable of conveying every bit as much emotion and virtuosity as a saxophone, guitar or piano. The Crab is this trio’s second recording – the first being a collection of tunes written by the late great German trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff. To be a trombonist and to do an all-Mangelsdorff tribute CD is akin to a tenor saxophonist doing an all-Coltrane tribute CD. Joe Fiedler is one of only a few trombonists I know of who could successfully pull off such a venture – he has the chops, the knowledge, the understanding, and the sheer audacity needed to do it. The Crab, a collection of Fiedler originals, is no less audacious and ambitious.
The mega-talented rhythm duo of drummer Michael Sarin and bassist John Hebert bring each of Fiedler’s sharp, witty compositions to life. Sarin – whom I know from his work with the late Thomas Chapin, Mario Pavone, Dave Douglas, Drew Gress, and many others – is simply masterful throughout The Crab. He deftly manages the extreme tempo changes in ‘Don’t Impede The Stream,’ lays down some supremely quirky funk on ‘Trout Stream,’ and plays a Second Line-inspired rhythm like a New Orleans native on ‘Jessie’s Little Freakout.’ I especially admired his super-dexterous, extremely tasty brush work on ‘Split Tone.’ Hebert is right there with Sarin throughout, all the while providing intelligent and fascinating tonal counterpoint to the leader’s trombone. He solos, at least briefly, on nearly every tune and proves that he is one of those rare bassists – like John Lindberg, Dave Friesen, and Fred Hopkins – who can groove a rhythm section and really shine in the lead role.
Fiedler’s tunes are a varied lot – most of his pieces are multi-sectioned, with multiple themes stated over restlessly shifting rhythms, but they have an irrepressible humor, warmth, and looseness about them as well. The title track starts out with Fiedler blowing a choppy ostinato that Hebert picks up in time for Fiedler to play the brief multiphonic-rich head. The tempo slows down somewhat for a reflective, almost free-ish improv section that gradually picks up steam as the rhythm section intensifies underneath Fiedler’s spiraling, climbing solo. Fiedler’s trombone multiphonics also figure prominently in ‘For Albert’ – an elegaic, almost skeletal ballad dedicated to Albert Mangelsdorff, the man who pioneered the use of multiphonics for low brass instruments. Here, Fiedler solos sweetly, almost resignedly, over Sarin’s near-magical drumming – seamlessly moving from brushes to mallets to sticks and back. ‘A Frankfurter in Caracas,’ possibly another Mangelsdorff tribute, is a mostly uptempo romp that refers to Latin rhythms without being a ‘Latin jazz’ tune. At the same time – upon hearing this tune, I wasn’t surprised to find out that Fiedler also plays in a Captain Beefheart tribute band!
The Crab is certainly one of the best jazz trio CDs I’ve heard this year – a must-buy for anyone interested in the state-of-the-art in jazz trombone. Fiedler’s stylistic breadth, attractive tunes, great playing, and super-talented backing are sure to please any fan of modern jazz.