Joe Fielder Trio

I’m in
Mutiphonics Music/MM02

By Ken Waxman

Trombonist Joe Fielder’s day job is as arranger, orchestrator and trombonist for Sesame Street. In the most complimentary manner possible, I’m in; the fourth CD by his own trio is a bit like that kids’ TV show: it’s educational plus a whole lot of fun. Fielder, who besides crafting cues and arrangements for the likes of Elmo, Big Bird and Kermit the Frog, not only leads his own groups but is also first call for bands like Eddie Palmieri’s and the Mingus Big Band. That versatility is part of the educational element of this CD, since each track succinctly expresses a different mood or emotion. I’m in is also educational since Fielder concentrates on the plunger mute, demonstrating the versatility of the classic jazz standby in contemporary music. Like Sesame Street though, the CD can be enjoyed for the raunchy excitement Fielder, bassist Rob Jost and drummer Michael Sarin bring to the nine original compositions, without knowing which trope or technique is being exhibited.

Take “The New Denizens” for instance. Following Jost’s unhurried percussive preamble, a rim shot introduces a staccato theme that from then on dances from Latin to blues references with Fielder’s staccato whinnying causing most of the commotion. Dulcet swing defines “In Walked Cleo”, as throbbing bass strokes keeps the lines fluid as the trombonist’s muted tones smooth the theme with peanut buttery thickness. Meanwhile “Completely ‘peccable” and “The Box” are short funk detours, with righteous double bass lines and drum backbeats that combine to build a backing platform on which Fielder’s slithery slides and jumpy blats sway like the JBs in full flight.

Able to rhythmically carry almost any tune individually, Jost and Sarin fade into a polyphonic groove during “Moving in Silence,” the date’s most intensely advanced track. Combining stentorian bass strokes and pinched brass multiphonics at the same tempo, the result strips the line to its skeleton-like fundamentals while gradually adding the muscle and sinew to create an entity that moves as well as inspires.

If someone ever wants to create a children’s program to introduce improvisational fundamentals with minimum presumption and maximum enjoyment, this outstanding CD suggests one strong contender for music director.

Tracks: Grip; Erstwhile; In Walked Cleo; Moving in Silence; The New Denizens; I’m in; Tensegrity

Personnel: Joe Fielder (trombone); Rob Jost (bass); Michael Sarin (drums)

—For The New York City Jazz Record April 2015