Brad Fritcher’s MOODS

If you’re looking to dive into the younger side of the Michigan jazz scene, this album will give you a great start into artists carving their own platforms in their respective cities. All too often jazz gets mistaken for purely intellectual music, unable to resonate with a common audience. As Brad Fritcher’s MOODS will show with each performance, jazz is the music of the people, a conveyance of struggle, dedication to the craft, and an ability to mold into new sounds and styles with the flexibility of its performers and the eagerness of its audience. With the recently released album “MOODS,” Fritcher sought to specifically recruit musicians from all parts of Michigan to lend their expertise to this project. The album features Brad Fritcher (trumpet), Patrick Booth (tenor sax), Travis Swanson (guitar), Joe Vasquez (bass), and Jonathan Taylor (drums). They came together at Stone House Recording Studios in Grand Rapids during the fall of 2016 to spend a couple sessions recording a large body of tunes, about 19 in total. The group settled on seven tracks that showcase the diversity of the project, the writing and arranging of both Fritcher and Booth, and the talents of the musicians involved. Each track pulls from a mixture of modern and traditional jazz influences. Booth’s tune, “The Blackest Eyes,” hits listeners with a gritty, syncopated riff that is just full of attitude. “Cheat Day,” also written by Booth, has a playfully rhythmic melody reminiscent of Thelonius Monk. Fritcher’s tune “Tamarack Trees” dances between different sections, each with specifically arranged rhythm section motifs placed against horn lines that bleed into interacting horn solos. The pacing of the album is nice as well, with tight two- to three-minute arrangements placed in between larger tunes that leave room for multiple soloists. Booth’s tunes “Reflex” and “Thawing, Slowly” offer a nice contrasting middle section in the album, as it shifts from a tight, mixed-meter tune into a slow-building, lilting piece that melts into free improvisation. While Travis Swanson’s guitar is heard on the record, tunes like Fritcher’s “To Beautifully Say Goodbye” forgo a chordal instrument to play around with harmonic and textural development of a more exposed quartet, much like Sonny Rollins or Joshua Redman did with their trio projects. “Haugr” closes the album with a driving backbeat and a myriad of effects pedals reminiscent of Donny McCaslin’s quartet. – Dutcher Snedeker