Airmen Of Note and The U.S. Army Blues. By the way, some of the money raised from sales of this album go to No Kid Hungry, an organization working to end childhood hunger in the United States.
The album opens with “Bebop Operations,” a piece that was included on Steve Fidyk’s 2020 release Battle Lines. For me, it was one of the highlights of that album, and it’s a great choice to open this one, for even with the smaller group on that earlier album it had a big band vibe. On this new album, the arrangement is by Regan Brough (who is the bass player of The U.S. Army Blues), and the differences are apparent immediately. On the earlier version, Steve Fidyk got things going with a brief drum solo. On this new recording, that opening section finds him joined by the members of the brass section, starting things with a bright burst of energy. There is a good deal of joy to this piece, and this rendition features some cheerful, lively work by Tim Leahey on trumpet and by Walt Weiskopf on tenor saxophone. The horns are dancing and singing here, seeming to gather even more energy as they go. But what keeps that spirit moving is that great rhythm, and there is a brief, but excellent drum solo toward the end. That’s followed by “The Flip Flopper,” which has an exciting and funky vibe right from the start. This composition was previously featured on Steve Fidyk’s 2014 album Heads Up! in a very different arrangement. The arrangement here is by Joseph Henson, and this new rendition grabs us immediately. There is a powerful force at work here pushing things forward. This track features some cool work by Kevin Cerovich on trombone over that funky rhythm (you might know Cerovich from his work in Airmen Of Note, where he is known as Master Sergeant Kevin Cerovich). Then halfway through, we are treated to a delicious lead on organ by Brian Charette. This track also features a short drum solo.
Also from Heads Up! comes “Untimely,” this new version arranged by Andrew Carson, who also delivers an excellent lead on trumpet. This track features Xavier Perez (of The U.S. Army Blues) on tenor saxophone and the incredible Jack Wilkins on guitar. A strong sense of movement is developed on this track, in part through that wonderful bass line. This new recording is a couple of minutes longer than the original version. And speaking of the bass, it is that instrument that pulls us into “Churn,” a piece that was previously featured on Battle Lines. The arrangement on this new album is by guitarist Michael Kramer. This is an engaging and exciting composition, feeling like it could become unhinged at any moment. Christopher Ziemba (from Airmen Of Note) delivers some wonderful work on piano, and this track features some excellent work from Walt Weiskopf on tenor saxophone. And I love how on this version toward the end, there is a chaos swelling underneath, developing, threatening to burst up through. This is one of my favorite tracks, a thrilling ride from beginning to end.
Andrew Carson does the arrangement for “Food Court Drifter,” a piece that originally appeared on Steve Fidyk’s 2016 album Allied Forces. As it opens, it establishes a rather playful character. While there might be something of the goof to this chap, he certainly has his own thing happening, and as we get more immersed in his world, we come to see there is actually a seriously cool element, heard especially in that work by Xavier Perez on tenor saxophone. Is it that his walk becomes more of a strut? Has his sense of himself become elevated in some way? Whatever it is, this is a thoroughly enjoyable track, and it features some good work on organ, and also some more cool work on saxophone, this time by Joseph Henson on alto sax. Plus, there is a delicious drum solo near the end. And after that, things take an interesting, unexpected turn. Also from Allied Forces comes “Gaffe,” this time with an arrangement by Joseph Henson. This is another track with a seriously good bass line. This track features a strong lead by Tim Leahey on trumpet, and some fantastic work by Joseph Henson on alto sax. Those leads are what make this rendition stand out. This is another track that is significantly longer than its original version. “One For T.J.” is another piece that was originally included on Allied Forces. Here it is arranged by Jack Saint Clair. There is a playful sense to this track, and I like the way it moves, sometimes growing, sometimes relaxing, while a seriously cool groove continues. It features a wonderful lead on flugelhorn by Graham Breedlove (of The U.S. Army Blues), plus some excellent work by Chris Farr on soprano sax. And, yes, we are treated to a drum solo before the end.
One of my favorite tracks from Battle Lines is “Loopholes,” and Steve Fidyk revisits that composition here, with a new arrangement by Michael Kramer. That great groove still plays a central part in this new version, and there is a funky edge. This lively number features Brian Charette on organ, and Chris Farr on tenor saxophone. There is also something of a progressive rock vibe to this track at moments. Michael Kramer delivers some really good work on guitar. The album then concludes with “Good Turns,” a tune from Allied Forces. Here it is expanded to twice its original length, with an arrangement by Mark Allen, who also delivers a fantastic lead on baritone saxophone. This one also features some wonderful work by Harry Watters on trombone and by Joseph Henson on alto sax. Meanwhile that bass line keeps everything cooking. And in the second half we are treated to guitar leads by both Jeff Barone and Jack Wilkins, who have different styles and sounds. And to top it all off, there is a drum solo near the end. What more could you want?
CD Track List
- Bebop Operations
- The Flip Flopper
- Food Court Drifter
- One For T.J.
- Good Turns
Red Beats is scheduled to be released on February 24, 2023.