From one perspective, Doug Webb‘s Bright Side is basically twelve tracks clothed in very recognizable forms —a few varieties of soul-jazz, a couple of heartfelt ballads, a taut bossa nova, and an array of middling and up tempo straight- ahead swingers. Although the material is thoroughly enjoyable, it’s tempting to succumb to a nagging notion that its all been done countless times before, and then simply move on to a record by yet another brave soul planting his/her flag in the jazz tradition. Fortunately, what enables Bright Side to add up to something more than a competent, professionally executed jazz record, is a slew of highlights, bright moments, and outright cool stuff that populates every track.
A quintet consisting of Webb’s tenor sax, trumpeter Joe Magnarelli, guitarist Ed Cherry, organist Brian Charette, and drummer Steve Fidyk (all of whom have led dates for the Posi-Tone Records label) operates like a well-oiled machine. Listening to how nicely all of the parts fit together, and the fact that you can easily discern each player’s contribution, are important facets of the disc’s appeal. For instance, Cherry’s work on the heads and his comping behind individual soloists are delivered in subtle yet decisive ways that add rich, distinctive flavors—while taking up a minimum amount of space. The same can be said about Charette, whose primary concern is holding down the band’s bottom, but, with due cause, asserts himself by means of vivid chords. Fully capable of inhabiting any role the music requires, Fidyk often jolts the band with thickset snare accents, frequently plays fluid, inconspicuous jazz time, and always executes smart, stimulating fills regardless of the type of groove.
Webb’s voice as an improviser possesses real character regardless of the kind of song he’s playing. Check out the R & B influenced “Society Al” for the way in which he gets down by himself at the onset of the track, pausing and briefly falling silent amidst a fair amount honking and shouting. Later on during his solo over the band’s uncluttered funk, Webb executes notey runs, brief, tantalizing hesitations, quick, meaningful digressions, as well as broad, weighty tones—and makes all of them sound like they belong in close proximity to one another. Magnarelli’s solos—particularly on “Steak Sauce,” “Slo Mo,” and “Lunar”— contain a fair measure of brassy power mixed with a kind of subdued, floating quality that feels emotionally vulnerable. Cherry possesses a unique, understated style, doling out notes with a soulful circumspection. His all-too-brief intro to “One For Hank” is the epitome of sparse perfection, so simple that it’s easy to take it for granted. The guitarist’s gift for making improvised lines sound both ephemeral and sturdy is also apparent throughout the gentle “Bahia,” where every single note and chord breathes easy and carries an almost imperceptible weight.
In the end, Webb and company make it simple to enjoy the music instead of indulging in critical hair splitting or fretting about stylistic proclivities and influences.
David A. Orthmann – All About Jazz
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
The realm of the Hammond B3 organ has never been a crowded field and it has remained so even today. However, where once you might have only found records of Larry Young, Jimmy Smith and Joey DeFrancesco in online and bricks and mortar stores, two more names are creating quite the storm in the realm today: one of them is Vanessa Rodrigues, the Toronto-based Brasilian and the American, Brian Charette. The latter once displayed a rather puzzling sobriety when I once heard him, but here, on this outstanding Posi-Tone recording, Once & Future all reservations are swept aside. How memorably he responds to this traditional and contemporary repertoire; to the elusive fragrance and intricacy that can leave your imagination haunted by such a distinctive idiom. And whether you note his special lyrical warmth in his own work or wonder at his unfaltering command of the work of other writers, you will be hard-pressed to find playing of greater authenticity.
Brian Charette and the music on this disc are a wonderful match; he conveys its ferbrile qualities with such naturalness, as is vividly demonstrated from the very get-go – Fats Waller’s ‘Jitterbug Waltz’. What’s striking about this and every other track on this disc how shockingly modern he makes this music sound. Better still, there is no gratuitous virtuosity, no knee-jerk lines, no undue filigree-work; just good old-fashioned swing. So much rhythmic beauty. You might also think that you know how this organ repertoire is to be played; how Jimmy Smith needs to be remembered. Think again: This is hyper-reactive, but always at the service of the music. Never has the emotional world of the Hammond B3 sounded so relatively unadorned. But there’s so much beauty, too. ; ‘Mellow Mood’ is a miracle of colour and nuance. While the sequence of chords towards the end of ‘Dance of the Infidels’ is utterly magical.
The best thing here is probably the non-organ works, the Woody Shaw composition ‘Zoltan’ and Wes Montgomery’s ‘Road Song’, which , delivered by Brian Charette with superbly insouciant virtuosity, has moments of dazzling spectacle and certainly draws the best out of this fine instrument. But then so is the rest of the material, which cushioned in the most beautiful sound puts this wondrous album up there on the map of organ music. This is such thoughtful and thought-provoking playing not only by the organist, but also by what also turns out to be the most perfect partners in crime: Will Bernard on guitar and Steve Fidyk on drums. However, first and foremost this is Brian Charette at his best, which is quite something.
Raul da Gama – JazzdaGama
The seamless, elastic world of music must surely be engaging to body and soul as if it were charting sonic events in the hot and heady days of a seemingly parallel universe. The music of a clutch of artists playing music intoxicated with the gaiety and passion for life in chance encounters and never-ending emotional thrills. These four discs lay out the sustaining power of trombone and saxophone, bass and drums with elegance and ease. In ensemble and solo sojourns the musicians on each of the discs create lines that flow, charm and interact in an entirely natural and unaffected manner. Every one of these Posi-Tone releases fulfils the promise to entertain and keep listeners in a constant of wonder.
David Gibson is a serious ‘student’ of his chosen instrument: the trombone. Not only does his virtuosity enable the songs on Inner Agent to spin out and display passages with dazzling facility but the emotional depth of his playing enables him to ‘sing’ with uncanny authority. More than anything, however, this recording follows in the great tradition of the trombone, paying luminous homage to the great Curtis Fuller with two tunes – ‘The Court’ and ‘Sweetness’. Gibson also takes his reverential manner many steps further with beguiling compositions of his own. In the magnificent workings of ‘The Scythe’, for instance, his music and his playing combines accuracy and clarity with a warm ambience and almost tangible texture. The other players in the ensemble also possess a remarkable aptitude for agility in their loping, leaping and mutable soli. Together, Gibson and his cohort, especially trumpeter Freddie Hendrix – whose musical character is cast as a doppelgänger for the trombonist’s own – have succeeded in leaving us with a performance of exceptional beauty.
Doug Webb’s most emotional call to look on the Bright Side is a most appropriate offering in these ‘times of trouble’. In this respect, Julie Styne’s feature, ‘Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry’ becomes the disc’s clarion call to listeners in search of peace. But let it be suggested that the saxophonist’s disc in question is an endless stream of moping about current events and an apocalyptic sermon about the state of the art, it has to be said that Webb is not one to weep and moan about it. Rather he is more apt to press on and serve up such delicacies as ‘Steak Sauce’ and ‘Funky Medina’. Making an ebullient record takes not only a sense of fun, but elegant simplicity, given to joyous celebration of all things musical. It also shows Webb to possess a more theatrically developed virtuosity necessary for a performance that highlights his compelling works. More rewarding on the ensemble front, both structurally and emotionally is Webb’s prominent interaction with musical partners who articulate the loose-limbed elegance of the music with impressive timbral variety.
Apart from the fact that Duke Ellington did not get credit for ‘Angelica’ in bassist Peter Brendler’s Message In Motion everything else about the album suggests the impulse to adorn musical lines with an intricacy that goes well beyond craftsmanship. It is matter of imbuing musical design with depth of thought and emotion melded in with clarity and reason. Peter Brendler’s work has shown this in spades throughout his illustrious career as a first-call bassist as well as a composer. His work with pianist Frank Kimbrough and drummer Barry Altschul is the stuff that legends are made of. In only his second album as leader, Brendler not only commands the respect of musical luminaries such as saxophonist Rich Perry and guitar alchemist Ben Monder, but also trumpeter Peter Evans and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza. ‘Stunts And Twists’ helps to unveil Brendler’s compositional skills, suggesting a wonderful sense of adventure about his narratives. His introduction to Elliott Smith’s ‘Easy Way Out’ is quite breathtaking as is Ben Monder’s playing that follows immediately after, as it makes way for Brendler to re-enter with melodic lines of his own. Alice Coltrane’s ‘Ptah The El Daoud’ features an insane, dysfunctional and brilliant solo by Peter Evans, who unleashes his genius once again on ‘Very Light And Very Sweet. A truly memorable album.
If it were time to draw up a list of the finest performances of 2016, then Steve Fidyk’s Allied Forces would feature very prominently on it. For one thing, this is not the usual organ/guitar/drum recording but an intelligent spinoff that features an infinitely larger and fascinating tonal colour palette with the addition of an alto and a tenor saxophone. The recording also shows the drummer/leader, Fidyk to not only possess formidable artistic gifts as a percussion colourist, but also a drummer of immense melodic capability. Fidyk’s musicianship also shows to be a bold instrumentalist and gifted writer. These complementary aspects paint a portrait of a musician with the facility to transform and illuminate in a myriad styles. It helps to have a sensibility rooted in, arguably, the last, and most significant idiom in Jazz – bebop. The group’s performance of Charlie Parker’s ingenious ‘Moose The Mooche’ and Thelonious Monk’s iconic ‘Evidence’ gets behind the irrepressible rhythmic dynamic of the music that Parker and Monk helped to create with Kenny Clarke and Dizzy Gillespie. But Fidyk is also a chameleonic musician. Consider the manner in which he whips up a funky storm on ‘Doin’ The Shake’. And the, of course, there’s the rousing rendition of Frank Foster’s ‘Shiny Stockings’ a marvellous bookend to ‘Evidence’, which gets things started. An album to die for.
Raul da Gama – JazzdaGama
Some guys are just too cool. Hammond B-3 organ master Brian Charette is one of those guys. Not only does he look cool, he knows his B-3 history, wrote a book (101 Hammond B-3 Tips), and for his 10th CD, Once & Future (Posi-Tone Records) he performs 14 tracks of super-cool B-3 funky jazz by a litany of great B-3 composers including himself. With only guitarist Will Bernard and drummer Steve Fidyk, Charette has dug down deep to come up with some gems in homage to his heroes — of which there are many.
Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz” and Larry Young’s “Tyrone” is a great one-two punch to start. (Yes, Fats played B-3 prior to becoming an ardent stride piano legend.) The “Latin From Manhattan” is an original tribute to the famous organist of The Copa in Rio, Ethel Smith. Somehow, some samba creeps in and it feels good. “Da Bug” is by 1960s New York City organist Freddie Roach.
Etta James owns “At Last” but this spunky instrumental version captures that melody fit to do your own singing along to. “Hot Barbecue” might’ve been written by another great B-3 man, Brother Jack McDuff, but the inherent drama of prog-rock organ icon Keith Emerson, who killed himself this year because his fingers were too crippled to play anymore, is all over this one. Charette not only digs ’70s superstars Emerson, Lake & Palmer, but he has a natural affinity for Deep Purple’s Jon Lord, whom he emulates on a song written by James Brown, “Ain’t It Funky Now.” Using Grant Green’s jazz cover as a template, he resurrects Lord’s sweeping rock vision, coupled with a nod to Tower Of Power who also covered JB’s skin-tight funk. Of course, any organ album has to have a little Jimmy Smith and here it’s “Mellow Mood.”
The closer is Charette’s own “Blues For 96” which he wrote when he lost his rent-stabilized New York City apartment. It is fitting to note that this is the building Led Zeppelin used as the cover shot to Physical Grafitti.
Mike Greenblatt – classicalite
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