Fred Lonberg-Holm's Fast Citizens - Gather

Fred Lonberg-Holm – cello, tenor guitar, trumpet
Aram Shelton – alto saxophone, clarinet, trumpet
Keefe Jackson – tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, trumpet
Josh Berman – cornet
Anton Hatwich – bass, trumpet
Frank Rosaly – drums, trumpet

The Fast Citizens are a Chicago all-star band with revolving leaders. This is their third disc after one led by Keefe Jackson and one by Aram Shelton. I used to check out cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm regularly when he was living in NY between 1980 and 1995. Mr. Lonberg-Holm and Tom Cora were two of the most adventurous cellists to emerge from the early Downtown scene of the early eighties. What I didn’t know was that Fred and Tom were also friends and collaborators behind the scenes. Since moving to Chicago in 1995, Mr. Lonberg has continued to become one of the most important musicians in the ever-expanding Chicago scene.

This disc seems like a culmination of the many players and strategies that Mr. Lonberg-Holm has dealt with. “Infra-Pass” is a strong, hard-swinging opener with inspired solos by Berman on cornet, Jackson on bass clarinet and Shelton on alto. During Shelton’s solo, the sextet speeds up faster and faster while Lonberg-Holm adds frenetic cello underneath pushing up the intensity higher. The piece ends with Fred taking a truly sick, explosive cello solo near the end. Yes, this is free/jazz at its best! After an twisted cello and cornet duo opening, “It’s a Tough Grid” slows down to a thoughtful well-arranged piece at a moderate tempo. Fred plays tenor (electric) guitar on three pieces here, giving the sextet a different sound on each one. “Later News” rocks in an odd way with strong guitar and tenor sax interplay. Lonberg-Holm does a good job of keeping the three layers of horns playing tight interlocking lines in between the solos. Sometimes two or three players will solo simultaneously but still give each other a chance to breathe. Some of the written passages remind me of the better British jazz/rock from the early seventies like If or Manfred Mann Chapter Three. “Faster Citizens! Kill! Kill!” has an odd sluggish groove with fractured guitar buried underneath layers of clarinets. Several times the piece comes to halt, until different horns solo erupt around one another. Fred’s arrangements are filled with surprises since we never know how any piece will evolve yet they still make sense overall. Aside from a handful of solos, duos and trios, Mr. Lonberg-Holm has few discs out as a leader. It seems as if he has been saving some of his best writing for this disc, a rarity and a gem.

 

Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Galler, 2012