On the new release Celestial Green Monster, Fred Ho and the Green Monster Big Band – assembled from Ho¹s favorite musicians with whom he had the pleasure and honor to work with since embarking upon a professional career in music in the 1980s – perform both original compositions by Ho (Liberation Genesis; Blues to the Freedom Fighters; The Struggle for a New World Suite) as well as arrangements of two pop culture classics (Spiderman Theme; In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida).
The quintessential American orchestra is not the symphony, but the big band. Retaining the essential features of swing and African-descended rhythmic vitality and complexity, improvisation (both individual and collective) with sophisticated compositional imagination, elasticity and experimentation with timbre and harmony, expansive and epic themes, the big band makes for as much a “joyful noise” as the ubiquitous small band. Though the composer/arranger may start with sketches and minimally notated material, the opportunity and challenge for a broader and more extensive palette of orchestral voicing, contrapuntal techniques (both melodically and rhythmically), and magnified excitement, intensity, energy and explosive dynamic range (“from a whisper to a scream”) continually make for the big band form an ideal vehicle of serious extended composition. Over the years, Mr. Ho¹s influences in big band writing have included composer/arrangers such as Duke Ellington, Thad Jones, Count Basie, Sun Ra, RoMas (Romulus Franceschini and Calvin Massey), Toshiko Akiyoshi, Charles Tolliver, Don Ellis, Frank Foster, Melba Liston, Shorty Rogers, Lalo Schifrin, Charles Mingus, and Tadd Dameron, among others. The popular “jazz-rock” horn bands also contributed mightily to Ho¹s musical consciousness, including Chicago Transit Authority, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Tower of Power, Azteca, Malo, Flock, Cold Blood; as well as black funk and soul bands such as Mandrill, Crown Heights Affair, Brass Construction, Earth, Wind and Fire, The Pyramids, and Kool and the Gang. And his oeuvre also included the blazing salsa bands led by Eddie Palmieri, Mongo Santamaria, Ray Barretto, Bobby Paunetto, Willie Colon, and Celia Cruz. All of this is reflected in this amazing and amazingly joyful recording.
THE GREEN MONSTER BIG BAND: Fred Ho, leader/baritone sax; Bobby Zankel, Jim Hobbs, alto sax; Hafez Modirzadeh, Salim Washington, tenor sax; Stanton Davis, Brian Kilpatrick, Amir Elsaffar, trumpet; Taylor Ho Bynum, cornet; Robert Pilkington, Marty Wehner, Richard Harper, trombone; Earl MacIntyre, David Harris, contrabass trombone; Art Hirahara, piano, electronic keyboard; Wes Brown, electric and acoustic bass; Royal Hartigan, drum set
Guest Artists on In A Gadda Da Vida: Abraham Gomez-Delgado and Haleh Abghari (vocals); Mary Halvorson (electric guitar)