Craig Fraedrich | Alone Together

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Alone Together

by Craig Fraedrich

An exquisite natural sound "chamber" jazz recording featuring Craig Fraedrich on trumpet, Tony Nalker on piano and joined by vocalists Lena Seikaly and Christal Rheams on an eclectic program of jazz standards and original tunes.
Genre: Jazz: Chamber Jazz
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  Song Share Time Download
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1. In Your Own Sweet Way (feat. Tony Nalker)
5:43 $0.99
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2. Just Squeeze Me (feat. Lena Seikaly & Tony Nalker)
6:07 $0.99
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3. I've Never Been in Love Before (feat. Tony Nalker)
6:13 $0.99
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4. Lover Man (feat. Christal Rheams & Tony Nalker)
5:58 $0.99
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5. The Things You Wish I Was (feat. Tony Nalker)
4:50 $0.99
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6. Michelle (feat. Lena Seikaly & Tony Nalker)
5:23 $0.99
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7. I Loves You Porgy (feat. Christal Rheams & Tony Nalker)
4:59 $0.99
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8. Alone Together (feat. Tony Nalker)
6:41 $0.99
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9. Come Sunday (feat. Christal Rheams & Tony Nalker)
4:33 $0.99
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10. Fradde's Song (feat. Lena Seikaly & Tony Nalker)
4:23 $0.99
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11. No You Didn't (feat. Tony Nalker)
4:28 $0.99
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12. In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning (feat. Tony Nalker)
4:33 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Trumpeter Craig Fraedrich has no shortage of scholarly credentials. On the jazz faculty at Virginia's Shenandoah Conservatory of Music since 1989, he has penned eight texts including "Practical Jazz Theory for Improvisation," published by the National Jazz Workshop Press. If you are an aspiring jazz musician who needs to know how to negotiate a given chord, you might consult Fraedrich's book. He could tell you, for instance, that over a G7(b9) chord you might want to consider the notes of the C harmonic minor scale, which, if played from G to G would be thought of as a G Phrygian Major scale. That, and in very non-academic fashion, he would tell you to use your ears, too.

But don't make the mistake of assuming that Fraedrich's understanding of the music theory underpinning jazz improvisation dominates his playing. He has been active as a performer in too many highly musical contexts to get stuck in any kind of intellectual rut. For three decades he was trumpet soloist with the Army Blues, the premier jazz ensemble of the U.S. Army. As one of the few full-time gigs a jazz player can aspire to, the ensemble is full of many of the finest big band musicians in the country (including, during Craig's tenure, pianist Tony Nalker, more about whom shortly). Fraedrich has also played with many other large ensembles,, including groups such as the Brass Band of Battle Creek for the premier of the Wycliffe Gordon composition “Tribute to Muhammad Ali” and Ramsey Lewis's “Proclamation of Hope” for his Kennedy Center performances.

But for all his success in large ensembles, Fraedrich's personal aesthetic has developed and been best displayed on the various small-group CDs he has released since 1988's “First Flight.” Early as it was, that disc had all the key elements of his trumpet playing—a beautiful tone even in the most frenetic of hard bop settings, and a slippery, chromatic concept of modal jazz. His second outing “So In Love” featured both quintet cuts featuring saxophonist Dave Liebman, and a sextet that included the admirably avant-garde saxophonist Tony Malaby, and some guy named Felten playing rather less avant-garde trombone.

Craig's playing and arranging on these discs were well-received, but the musical settings were perhaps denser than he wanted. What with a day gig in a big band, I suspect Fraedrich welcomed the opportunity to pare down the ensembles on his own dates. That process found the trumpeter, on the disc “Shades of Blue,” in the smallest group he could lead, a duo with pianist Tony Nalker. Craig would sometimes add singer Christal Rheams, fashioning the resulting trio “Trilogy.” It is in those basic concepts we find Fraedrich here—“Alone Together”—in duo with Nalker, trio with Rheams, and also in trio with singer Lena Seikaly.

Let's talk about the duo first. There's a tendency to think of a duo as a quartet that's missing a couple of players. Where oh where are the bass and drums? By way of answering that question, a piano player is inclined to play walking bass lines to fill the gap. Happily, Nalker avoids that trap and uses rhythmic patterns and chordal riffs to maintain pulse and propulsion. And when something more swinging is called for—as with Duke Ellington's “Just Squeeze Me”—he slips in and out of an easy stride. But most notable in his playing is the logical unfolding of his harmonic ideas, an unfolding that reveals Nalker's deep structural understanding of every song he plays. You can hear in Nalker's purposeful playing debts to the solo work of Keith Jarrett and that of Fred Hersch too.

Speaking of debts: On standards—such as Frank Loesser's “I've Never Been In Love Before”—Fraedrich's playing owes much to Woody Shaw of the “Solid” album era. Listen to Shaw play “There Will Never Be Another You,” and then listen to Fraedrich blow over “I've Never Been In Love Before” and you will hear a direct lineage. You will also hear figures that pay homage to another post-bop trumpet great—the waves of notes toward the end of Fraedrich's solo on “Alone Together” recall the impossible arpeggiations that flow from Freddie Hubbard's trumpet on Herbie Hancock's “Maiden Voyage.”

There are some surprises too. Duke Ellington's “Come Sunday” is normally treated with a reverence that, however appropriate, can be a bit dour. Here, the emphasis is on a joyful spirituality that rollicks along with a Professor Longhair piano groove. Christal Rheams sings on the cut and does so with a refreshing lack of the sort of melismania that is mistaken for having vocal chops these days.

Vocalist Lena Seikaly has similar virtues. She also exhibits an easy-going restraint, an unfussiness that allows her to sing with simplicity and sincerity. This is even—perhaps especially—the case when Seikaly scats. Even to mention that there is scat singing on this album is, I know, to set off alarms. Scat is the siren song that has lured all too many singers to ruin. But Seikaly again is unfussy and improvises with a tuneful directness. Listen to her on “Squeeze Me.”

Facilitating the tuneful melodicism is engineer Daniel Shores, known for the natural sound of his recordings. He has been nominated for several Grammys for classical recordings (winning one in 2019) done at his studio, Sono Luminous—an old church converted to an airy recording space. Instead of recording bits and pieces in cubicles and then stapling them together, these sides have been created by actual humans playing together in an actual room. Enjoy the difference.

My favorite cut from this fine collection is the most melodic one. There are many places where Fraedrich demonstrates his ability to play with an honest lyricism, as on “The Wee Small Hours.” But it is when this recording is at its simplest that it is at its most compelling. And that is the aching presentation of “I Loves You Porgy,” on which Rheams and Fraedrich give and take the Gershwin melody and even interpolate a melody from a Jerome Kern verse. It's a potent demonstration of the power of melody and shows how melody can coexist successfully with music built out of the most complicated of scales and chords.

Which reminds me: I need to go practice my Phrygian Major modes.

Eric Felten is a jazz singer and trombonist and journalist in Washington, D.C.

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