John Fedchock Arranges for Success


Trombonist John Fedchock leads a quartet, a sextet and the New York Big Band.

(Photo: Christopher Drukker)

John Fedchock has forged a distinctive career fueled by enormous talent, hard work and an entrepreneurial spirit.

The trombonist’s latest album, Reminiscence (Summit), represents just one facet of his livelihood. The new disc is a follow-up to 2015’s Fluidity (Summit); both sessions were culled from a live 2013 performance by Fedchock’s quartet with pianist John Toomey, bassist Jimmy Masters and the late drummer Dave Ratajczak.

Fedchock’s 2015 New York Big Band album, Like It Is (MAMA), received a Grammy nomination for his arrangement of “You And The Night And The Music,” adding to an earlier Grammy nod for his arrangement of Joe Henderson’s “Caribbean Fire Dance” from his 2003 album, No Nonsense (Reservoir). A former arranger and music director for the late clarinetist Woody Herman and his renowned big band, Fedchock now views his work on Herman’s two final albums—50th Anniversary Tour and Woody’s Gold Star—as particularly formative.

“I was his chief arranger and musical director from 1980 to ’87, the last seven years of his life,” Fedchock recalled. “After that, my charts for big bands, colleges and music professionals were published. That fueled interest to do clinics at universities, talking to students about arranging, improvisation and the music business or to perform with the university ensembles.”

Reminiscence and Fluidity are stellar examples of Fedchock’s trombone mastery. With a golden tone and powerful delivery, he leads the quartet through standards and originals, delivering a timeless brand of hard-bop that’s free of cliché.

Fedchock’s work ethic has borne fruit in 10 albums as a leader, as well as sideman recording sessions with Gary Smulyan, the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra, Kim Pensyl, Linda Eder and others.

“John is such a unique player,” pianist Toomey said. “John’s feel, his sound, his tone and his improvisational ability are extraordinary. Trombone is not an easy instrument to get around on, and he makes it sound stress-free. His tunes flow and make a beautiful statement; the changes make sense and it’s something that audiences can identify with.”

Adding to his busy schedule as a touring artist, Fedchock has designed trombones in collaboration with XO Professional Brass. He described his XO 1632GL-LT model and the new XO 1634 model as being “very lightweight, warm and relaxed sounding.” He added, “When I’m playing lead in my big band, I can really make the horn pop. [These designs have] changed the way people think about how to put a trombone together.”

Fedchock taught trombone as an adjunct professor at Temple University (2010–’12) and SUNY Purchase (2006–’14), during which time he met his future wife, trombonist Jennifer Wharton. Fedchock wrote four arrangements, produced and mixed Wharton’s new album, Bonegasm (Sunnyside), which features the four-trombone front line of Alan Ferber, Nate Mayland, Wharton and Fedchock, accompanied by pianist Michael Eckroth, bassist Evan Gregor and drummer Don Peretz.

“Jennifer has performed in Broadway pits and jazz clubs and concert halls for years,” Fedchock noted. “With Bonegasm, she’s receiving invitations for new work, such as appearing with the Bucknell University Jazz Band as a guest soloist. She’ll be featured at the 2019 International Women’s Brass Conference and the International Trombone Festival this summer.”

For all his trombone prowess and demand as a clinician, Fedchock’s heart remains on the road at the many small local clubs he still calls home.

“I really enjoy playing with different musicians,” Fedchock said. “That’s the original reason I wanted to be involved in music. I’ve been chasing that my whole life, and I don’t expect to ever stop chasing that. It’s a feeling you can’t get anywhere else but onstage, playing.” DB

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May 2024
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