Album Remarks & Appraisals:
The Old Fred Ho (also known until 1988 as Fred Houn) died on August 4, 2006 of advanced colo-rectal cancer. His progeny, the New Fred Ho, born August 5, 2006, has taken up the mantle of his predecessor, including forming the incredible Green Monster Big Band, a gathering of Who's Who of virtuosi-improvisers across the U.S.; continuing to lead the Afro Asian Music Ensemble; and imagining and producing fantastic new stage productions of mangaopera/martial-arts/music theater. FRED HO and the GREEN MONSTER BIG BAND's second recording, YEAR OF THE TIGER, debuts on Innova. Year of the Tiger spans the "popular avant garde" palette of composer Ho's fondness for television themes (here The Johnny Quest Theme), a medley tribute to the late Michael Jackson (Very, Very Baaad!), two fresh interpretations of Jimi Hendrix, one of Ho's boyhood idols (Fire and Purple Haze, the latter a Wachowski Brothers-meets-Noam Chomsky tongue-in-cheek spoof upon the late Vincent Price's iconic oratorio), a new opus by Ho, Take the Zen Train, commissioned by Harvard University (Ho was awarded the 2009-2010 Harvard Arts Medal), along with a combined children and adult choir with Chinese instrumentation version of a martial arts-movie theme classic (Hero Among Heroes) and an excerpt from a new opera collaboration between Ho and librettist Ruth Margraff, Cleopatra and Antony (an Afro-centric manga-opera). Composer-baritone saxophone virtuoso FRED HO has assembled one of American music's most extraordinary large ensembles, THE GREEN MONSTER BIG BAND, featuring a stellar assembly of musician-improvisers and a repertoire that encompasses vanguard extended works by Ho to his imaginative arrangements of Rock and Pop classics by Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson, Black Sabbath, Iron Butterfly, adding a powerful freshness and revolutionary excitement to the big band tradition from Ellington to Sun Ra. And if this combination wasn't incredulous enough, Ho has added to the big band repertoire his personal childhood Television theme-song favorites (eg., The Spider-Man Theme or The Johnny Quest Theme)!
Personnel: Fred Ho (baritone saxophone); Abraham Gomez-Delgado (vocals); Christina Nuki, Haleh Abghari, Del Fionn Sykes (soprano); Lynn Randolph Brown (tenor); Michael Douglas Jones (baritone, bass voice); Dax Valdes (baritone); Mary Halvorson (guitar); Jim Hobbs, Bobby Zankel (alto saxophone); David Bindman, Hafez Modirzadeh, Salim Washington (tenor saxophone); Stanton Davis, Jr., Amir ElSaffar, Nabate Isles (trumpet); Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet); Richard Harper (trombone, piano, keyboards); Marty Wehner, Bob Pilkington (trombone); Earl McIntyre, David Harris (bass trombone); Art Hirahara (piano, keyboards); Royal Hartigan (drums, percussion).
Liner Note Author: Fred Ho.
Recording information: Jon Evan's Studio, Berkeley, CA (10/02/2004); Manhattan Country School (10/02/2004); Systems Two, Brooklyn, NY (10/02/2004); Jon Evan's Studio, Berkeley, CA (11/23/2004); Manhattan Country School (11/23/2004); Systems Two, Brooklyn, NY (11/23/2004); Jon Evan's Studio, Berkeley, CA (12/14/2004); Manhattan Country School (12/14/2004); Systems Two, Brooklyn, NY (12/14/2004).
Director: Philip Blackburn.
To approximate the first half of Fred Ho's album Year of the Tiger, it's necessary to imagine the sound that might be created if the members of Duke Ellington & His Orchestra were mixed with the players from Parliament/Funkadelic and set loose on the Michael Jackson and Jimi Hendrix catalogs. That's right, songs like "Thriller" and "Purple Haze" get severely retrofitted into an aggressive, irreverent jazz-funk style, with harsh, massed horn parts. Sometimes, the sound resembles a couple of high-school marching bands fighting it out on the same football field. In the second part of the album, Ho takes a more conventional jazz approach, that is, if "conventional" can be taken to mean a post-bop big-band style in which a horn ensemble is employed for avant-garde purposes. And then there's the children's chorus that pipes up on the Oriental-styled "Hero Among Heroes." This is ambitious, challenging jazz, occasionally made somewhat more accessible by the leader's evident zany sense of humor. ~ William Ruhlmann