Friday, August 5, 2011
Fred Ho Gets Very Serious on "Big Red!"
Fred Ho is a composer-instrumentalist-bandleader with a complex attitude toward his Chinese-Asian ancestry, the homeland and its contemporary historical stance, the Afro-American culture from which his music in part derives, and commercial culture in general and of America in particular. I won't begin to try and describe that attitude, except to say that his music reflects the multiplicity of factors that go into who he is today. Big Red! (Innova 794), the latest in a series of albums by his various big band appellations, in this case the Afro Asian Music Ensemble, has less of the very personal versions of iconic pop-rock American material (see the reviews of some his other recent albums in this blog for that), but much in the way of incorporating traditional Chinese and other Asian musical elements, the jazz tradition in general and the Afro-African heritage anyone playing this music taps into, whether in a fully aware way or no.
What's especially good about that is not the sheer fact that he does it. It's how he pulls off the synthesis in very original musical ways. For this is music of much originality and sophistication--and the kind of power that goes far to making Big Red! an album of considerable interest.
I will not go into a lot of detail today. I will only say that Fred Ho's big band music is essential to this decade. Big Red! is one of the very best of his recent work. So go ahead and get it without any trepidation or hesitation, if you are so inclined. It's a good one.