One realizes just how special Allied Forces (Posi-Tone Records) by drummer/composer/bandleader Steve Fidyk is about halfway through the Monk opener, “Evidence.”
This is one swinging quintet dealing with Monk’s myriad changes and convoluted thought processes in a shiny new irresistible way. It has that good new-car smell about it that hooks you right in. And it’s like that for the duration, partly because guitarist Shawn Purcell and tenor saxist Doug Webb make the absolute most of their opportunity here.
His own “Good Times” switches from common-time (4/4) to a waltz (3/4) mid-song and it’s in that split second of a changed time signature where, again, you’re hooked right in to Fidyk’s oh-so-hip wavelength. Marc Free’s production is such that one can hear every instrument, the percussion discussions, the high-flying solos where even under the epicenter of a tantalizing solo, some mighty rumbling is going on.
Fidyk has worked the DC area for 25 years. He studied under the legendary Joe Morello [1928-2001]. As part of numerous big-bands (check out the “Army Blues Tribute To Buddy Rich” clip below), he’s played with The Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon Big Band and numerous orchestras. He’s influenced by the drum work of Billy Higgins [1936-2001] on such seminal recordings as Lee Morgan’s “The Sidewinder” and Eddie Harris’s “Freedom Jazz Dance.” His own “Food Court Drifter” is a “blues in boogaloo style,” according to the drummer in the liner notes. It will make you move as will “Doin’ The Shake.”
Charlie Parker’s 1946 “Moose The Mooche” has Fidyk emulating another of his heroes, Mel Lewis [1929-1990] before the band gets lyrical, loose and romantic on “Portrait of Tamela,” an original for Fidyk’s wife of 25 years. Here, the suave tone of alto sax man Joseph Henson comes to the fore. “High Five” is Fidyk’s update of Paul Desmond’s 1959 “Take Five” that the Dave Brubeck Quartet made into the biggest-selling jazz single of all-time in 1961. “In My Room” is the Beach Boys ballad that Brian Wilson wrote in 1963 that’s been universally hailed as one of the greatest songs of the rock era. It all ends with a drums/organ duet with Brian Charette (whose has his own terrific new CD out, Once & Future, on the same label) for “Shiny Stockings,” inspired by the Elvin Jones/Larry Young moment on “Monk’s Dream” from Unity in 1965
Mike Greenblatt – classicalite.com
This record company, Posi-tone Records, seems to have a group of musicians who are comrades and they make it a point to support each other by recording in concert and exchanging leaders. Just last month, I reviewed Doug Webb’s CD with most of these same players. However, on this recording, it’s the drummer who is featured as ‘leader.’ Monk’s composition, “Evidence” is a good way to begin any project. All those short, snappy, staccato notes that spell out the melody in that uniquely, creative way, are great for a drummer to be-bop along with and Fidyk takes full advantage of this opportunity. On Fidyk’s original tune, “Good Turns” he approaches the percussion support with a flurry of cymbal crashes and high energy that pulsates the song straight-ahead, rolling it forward like a freight train at top speed. Fidyk turns out to be a competent composer. “Gaffe” is another one of his originals and is a lesson in straight-ahead drum chops that uses an awesome horn section to set-up the melody. Then, flying like a bat out of cave on fire, Fidyk pushes this wonderful group of musicians to their limits. The unusual breaks and harmonics remind me of Thelonius Monk’s composer skills. Just when I thought I was going to get all straight-ahead jazz and bebop, Fidyk flicked the switch on “Doin’ the Shake” where he shows he’s equipped to play funk with the best of them. This song gives Purcell a chance to showcase excellent guitar skills and by the way, Purcell wrote this piece. On “Moose the Mooche” the excitement peaks and the listener gets to enjoy Charette’s amazing talents on the organ. I had to play this one twice and both times it left me breathless. Fidyk obviously enjoys playing up-tempo, with challenging breaks and a band that brings the best of what they have to the session. Both horn players, Henson & Webb, perform unforgettable solos throughout, strutting their improvisational talents like finely tailored Italian suits. They’re sharp, trendy and play to impress.
Fidyk comes from a musical family. His father, John Fidyk, who played tenor saxophone in several East Pennsylvania groups, proudly took his eight-year old son (Steve) to gigs and had him sit-in as a substitute drummer when only a mere child. Both parents recognized their son’s musical talents early on. Consequently, they encouraged little Steve to hone his percussive skills. He majored in Music Education at Wilkes University and played drums in several big bands. To date he has performed on over 100 recordings and has an extensive discography. This CD will be a shining star to add to his growing constellation.
Dee Dee McNeil – Musical Memoirs Blog
Drummer Steve Fidyk’s the leader here, and his talents really give the album a sharp sort of crackle – but we especially love the record’s interplay between the mighty Hammond talents of Brian Charette, the tenor of Doug Webb, and alto of Joseph Henson! The trio come together without any bassist at the bottom – just Charette’s work on the organ to groove things up – but they also get some great help from guitarist Shawn Purcell, who laces things together nicely over Fidyk’s crackling drums – leaving the two horns and keys to create these magical criss-crossing lines of sound!
Titles include the Fidyk originals “Gaffe”, “Good Turns”, “Food Court Drifter”, “Portrait Of Tamela”, “High Five”, and “One For TJ” – plus a sweet take on the Beach Boys’ “In My Room”.
Drummer Steve Fidyk had some of his first rhythm tips from legendary Dave Brubeck drummer Joe Morello. Fidyk studied hard, practicing non-stop, degrees at Wilkes College and a Masters at University of Maryland, a work ethic that rewarded with tours with the NY Voices and Woody Herman Orchestra. Fidyk’s recordings include those with the U.S. Army Blues Jazz Band, and efforts with Posi-tone label mates saxophonist Walt Weiskopf, and organist Brian Charette, who returns the favor on Steve’s new cd, “Allied Forces”, alongside alto saxophonist Joseph Henson, tenor saxophonist Doug Webb and guitarist Shawn Purcell.
The musical ingenuity found here has a fun time with Monk, Bird, Frank Foster, EVEN Brian Wilson.
The place also gets sweatin’ with Fidyk originals “Good Turns” and “Food Court Drifter”, a tribute to the way Billy Higgins grooved along with trumpeter Lee Morgan. Guitarist Purcell contributes a funkified “Doin’ The Shake”.
Be sure to check out what this allied force does with “Moose The Mooche”, Monk’s “Evidence” and Brian Wilson’s “In My Room”.
Gary Walker – Morning Jazz WBGO
When I state that Steve Fidyk wrote the book on big band drumming, I’m not being totally honest because he’s written many such books….
S. Victor Aaron – Something Else reviews
Straight ahead swinging jazz powered by a crew of leaders in their own rights, drummer Fidyk makes no statements here other than he can keep things on track from the back of the stage and that good are meant to be shared by all. Not the kind of feel good jazz you’d associate with water front bars on summer nights but you have to call it that for lack of a better name, this is smoking stuff that works throughout and is the kind of friendly hard core jazz that brings new listeners into the tent despite themselves. On the money throughout and totally hot.
Chris Spector – Midwest Record