“RESILIENCE!” is the DFQ~Dale Fielder Quartet’s 20th Anniversary recording. Night after night for over twenty years, the DFQ have gone quietly about their business; almost workman-like, -just making the gig, yet as serious as your life in focusing only on the music. Seeing this focus and reverence for the music, while having a great time doing it is what their audiences like most about the band. Looking back on the tenth anniversary for the DFQ in 2005, Fielder in an interview for his “Baritone Sunride” CD commented on the band’s bond: “The passion and dedication each member of this band has is beyond any words I can say except the word “love”. We really love what we are doing together. It doesn’t happen quite in the same way when we play with anyone else. We naturally create a very ego-less and supportive musical environment for each other every time we play. And because of this, there is a tremendous amount of love, respect and esteem we hold for each other that has been enjoyed for ten years and hopefully many more to come”. Ten years later on their twentieth anniversary, the band continues to not merely survive, but actually thrive. It is certainly remarkable in how the band continues to grow, evolve their singular way and have created a body of distinctive jazz music. This current offering testifies to the abilities of Fielder’s leadership, his courage as a bandleader as well as his commitment and determination in his continued pursuit of the baritone sax as a front-line solo instrument; -not a usual role for the deep-toned horn, usually seen anchoring the sax section in a big band. Also the CD continues to exhibit Fielder’s evolution as a composer. The beauty and strength of the band can be seen in how they play and interpret Fielder’s compositions. As a result, the band has their own sound and can immediately set a mood and create a vibe. Also each individual member is showcased; everyone gets to shine! This is a band in the fullest sense of the word and not a collection of dis-interested individuals just phoning it in. This very special 20th Anniversary CD is aptly entitled RESILIENCE! A testament to the DFQ continuing their course for over twenty years and marking their anniversary with a great recording in the way they do best; -playing live; no tricks, no gimmicks nor a safety net! Music created on the spot, in the moment; -what the art of creating the genuine jazz experience should be all about. Here, we are treated to two CDs chocked-full of consistently urgent, earnest and honest music.
The band boasts two major soloists in Dale Fielder and pianist Jane Getz. Getz possessing one of the most unique stories in jazz as recorded in her autobiography “Runnin’ With The Big Dogs” of leaving high school and traveling to NYC to work and record with jazz immortal, Charles Mingus. Hand-picked by Chick Corea as his ‘first call’ sub, Getz was one of the most sought-after pianists on the NYC scene during the late 1960s and early 1970s, working on Pharaoh Sanders first recording and performing with Stan Getz, Herbie Mann, Charles Lloyd, Elvin Jones and countless others. Eventually, Getz secured a deal with RCA as a producer and left NYC for Hollywood, bought a house in the Hollywood hills and produced sessions for artists such as Ringo Star, John Lennon, and the Bee Gees as the legendary pop producer “Mother Hen”. She continues to work to this day as a sought-after music producer and owns and operates one of Hollywood’s most successful mixing studios, Crescent Heights Digital. Finally by the early 90s, Getz had the urge to ‘play some real music again”, and began going out to play on the LA scene where she crossed paths with Fielder.
Dale Fielder came out of Pittsburgh by way of NYC and became known to the jazz public in the 1990s largely through his own recordings. His 1996 CD, “Dear Sir: Tribute To Wayne Shorter”was a top-ten CD for over three months and was instrumental in bringing him to the attention of the national jazz public. The CD enjoyed the approval and support of Mr. Shorter and was also Jane Getz’s first recording with the band. Known earlier in his career as an alto and tenor saxophonist, Fielder began performing on the baritone sax in 2003. As a devotee of the baritone sax style of the great Pepper Adams, Fielder began performing exclusively on the baritone sax on his own gigs since 2014. He has said that the baritone is a “natural fit for my style of play”. When asked to describe his style on the sax, Fielder says, “The basis of my saxophone style is out of “Bird”, Charlie Parker. That’s the foundation of my style. I came to “Bird” through Jackie McLean, who was my first major influence on alto. I began on alto and primarily played that until the 90’s when I added tenor. When you think about it, Jackie McLean’s style, especially his sound is a perfect style for the baritone sax. I found that where I had to play a lot of notes to be effective on the other horns, I could be equally as effective with less notes on the baritone. On baritone each note has more “weight” if you will, caused by the lower register of the horn, more metal etc. Imagine that tart-sweet tone of McLean that was kind of a tenor sound on alto; imagine THAT on baritone! I see myself as a more emotional player than an intellectual one. I rely more on intuition and instinct than technique. Going for the emotional essence of the music makes me more into sound and tonal centers; more primal and primitive levels I think. My first major infulences on the sax were three: Jackie McLean as mentioned, then Sonny Rollins and then Pepper Adams. I was into these guys early before I got into Trane and of course lost my mind! (laughs) As my records show, when I picked back up with the baritone in 2003, the Pepper influence was pervasive. Up until about 2011, I loved his playing so much I finally began to worry about becoming a clone. Luckily, I pulled a tendon in my arm and was physically unable to play baritone for over a year from 2013 thru 2014 and went back to the other saxes. So when I went back to the baritone in 2014, I’ve since been working to expand beyond the Pepper Adams influence, incorporating others like Trane, Dexter, Wayne and Joe Henderson. I feel that with RESILIENCE!, I have finally pushed past the Pepper influence on baritone and starting to become my own man on the horn.” What’s really unique is that Fielder has also brought the baritone sax front line in a contemporary setting that is unusual these days. Here Fielder places the baritone in settings that are not normal. Right out of the box with the tune “Days and Nights With You”, is a baritone sax/vocal duet! Who else does that?
The other members of the DFQ are equally unique players in their own right. Bill Markus, one of the busiest bassists in Los Angeles “possesses two unique solo styles”, says Fielder. “A unique double-stop pizzicato style and a jazz arco style unlike any other bassist in jazz. Plus he is unbeatable on fast tempos. As the night gets longer, Bill gets stronger!” Percussionist Thomas White is a product of the New England Conservatory where he studied under the legendary George Russell. His unique style of combining power and intensity without a lot of volume makes him a favorite for piano trios. Fielder likes “that he is a drummer who plays and extemporizes instead of merely keeping time. Yet his sense of time is impeccable. This is why we call him ‘Mr. Taste’!”
The music on this CD was recorded in front of a live audience at Alvas Showroom in San Pedro, CA by Grammy award winning engineer Bob Tucker. Tucker is also head engineer and partner with Jane Getz at Crescent Heights Digital. His work here speaks for itself, captured and recorded so well that you are only aware it is a live recording at each tune’s end when you hear the audience applaud! Fielder says that Alvas is “one of the most acoustically perfect rooms in the country today!” He recorded his 2007 CD “Plays the Music of Pepper Adams” there at Alvas. For the exception of George Cables’ “Think On Me”, all the music recorded that night are Dale Fielder originals. Fielder says, “These are the tunes we’ve been playing on gigs through-out 2014-2015” except for “Days and Nights With You” and “Aquarian Aspirations”, which are the newest and were written just before the session. “Days and Nights With You”features the execptionally talented vocalist Rita Edmond, who has been performing with the band since 2014 whenever a vocalist is required. The tune definitely illustrates her simpatico with the band. We are treated to two completely different versions of the tune, Take-1 opening the CD and Take-2 closing it. A truly exotic tune with lush chord changes, written as a tone poem for Fielder’s wife, it demonstrates his ideas about composition. “I’m of the Lester Young school of thought in jazz; the attraction to beauty in music. There’s the desire to convey the sense of the exotic or ecstatic and trance states in music. It’s a direct path to the soul and the eternity of life itself.” He spoke on this early in his career in 1995 for Musician magazine where he said back then, “It is a mistaken assumption that musicians merely reflect the times they live in. We have the responsibility to assist in molding the characteristics of the future. So my music cannot help but to align with the positive qualities of our world. It addresses the magnificence of the human experience. I am learning how to adjust the composition of melody, rhythm, harmony and lyrics to affect people’s consciousness in a positive and beneficial way, whether they are aware of it or not. Its about really learning how to be a healer.” Isn’t that what jazz is all about? Using the music to feel good about life in spite of it’s challenges.
“Aquarian Aspirations”, an intriguing composition that is primarily in 3/4 time with 1 bar of 5/4, was written for his elder brother and mentor, the late tenor saxophonist Guy Fielder, who transitioned in November of 2015. “He is the reason why I’m playing this music” says Fielder. “Every note I play from now on is for him, for I am his legacy.” This is Fielder’s most engaging solo on the CD and is at the heart of what Fielder is accomplishing with the baritone sax. This solo yields dividends upon repeated listening. Next, we are treated to an extended 11 plus minute version of “The Quickening” [A Divine Moment]” which first appeared on Fielder’s“Stellar Moments” CD back in 2009 where Fielder played it on alto sax. This is much how the band stretches out and sounds when performing live. In turn, “Romance Serenade” first appeared on Fielder’s CD of the same name back in 2000, another top-ten CD at the time. That version was an instrumental version where Fielder played it on soprano sax. However lyrics were written for it and here, we get to hear it for the first time in a fine vocal outing by Rita Edmond. The title tune “Resilience!” features Jane Getz and the cross-stick quarter note rhythm that is prominent in Fielder’s writing these days. He says, “I like it because while making the music sound more contemporary to today’s audience, it also establishes a time keeping dynamic that one can solo over in a traditional way like Bird very easily”. “Easy Does It” and “Patience’s Patience” displays the more straight-ahead post-bop style the band is known for. Of particular note is Thomas White’s brush work throughout on “Patience’sPatience”, as well as solos on “Think Of Me” and “The Quickening” with full band accompaniment.
Disc II starts out with Fielder’s ‘mini-suite’ “Perceptions”. Fielder has written and performed several extended works over the years. Many were commissioned. Two have been recorded on CD: “Ocean of Love and Mercy” (1997) and “Suite: Clarity” (2004). His last, “Light And Shadow” (2007) was a commission from Lenoir-Rhyne College in North Carolina. “When I was about 9 years old, I fell in love with the music of Duke Ellington, mesmerized by his “Reminincing In Tempo”, says Fielder. “It made a profond impression on me as well as inspiring the desire to compose longer forms. “Perceptions” has turned out to be a work in progress; there’s already a part four written for it. I‘m really happy for the opportunity to get it in”.
“Perceptions I: [Shifting Focus] is an up-tempo straight-ahead swinger with solos by all four members. Fielder and Getz’s authoritive bebop roots, as well as a strong-point of the entire band; are in full display here. Immediately beginning afterwards is “Bass Prelude I” by Bill Markus, who is featured in the first of two bass preludes. “Bass Prelude I” is performed acro (with the bow) in an almost classical style. The bass-line leads of “Perceptions II: [Elation]” starts the second movement. [Elation] is a case in point of Fielder’s intent to convey the sense of the exotic and trance states in music. Also of note is how both Fielder and Getz are so un-hurried during their solos, taking their time to caress each note. Next up is “Bass Prelude II” and this time is performed pizzicato (pluked) by Markus and makes the transition into “Perceptions III: [Radiance]”. [Radiance] is a wonderful Latin Hybrid composistion; first Getz and then Fielder lay down expressive solos. After listening, Fielder comment on seeing the Wayne Shorter influence in his writing. And indeed the tune seems like something Wayne Shorter would have written back in an earlier period. At the end of the night, the band decided to have another go at “Days and Nights With You” and we are treated to an alternate take of the tune, as indeed, there were no thow-aways that evening.
“RESILIENCE!” is a splendid 20th Anniversary recording that stands up well to repeated listening. One can only hope this recording will go a long way in helping the band be heard more broadly. Congratulations to DFQ~Dale Fielder Quartet for staying the course for over 20 years; and in that one fact, they have accomplished what few jazz bands in the new millenium have been able to enjoy. They truly do possess, – RESILIENCE!