Ft. Joe Fiedler (Trombone), Steven Bernstein (Trumpet), Jeff Lederer (Saxophone), Sean Conly (Bass), Michael Sarin (Drums)
Open Sesame merges the two worlds of Joseph Fielder, those being music director for Sesame Street—for the past twelve seasons and an internationally recognized jazz trombonist, by presenting his unique and slightly edgy arrangements of Sesame Street classics. In support of their new release, Fuzzy and Blue, the band showcases a working quartet of seasoned New York improvisers.
"An uncanny ability to blur the line between avant-garde and mainstream jazz." -Downbeat
"Fiedler pays indirect tribute to tradition while simultaneously turning the music inside out." -Jazziz
"Trombonist Joe Fiedler’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." -New York City Jazz Record
The New York Times has pinpointed a “feeling for a rugged but jaunty experimentalism” in the music of trombone veteran Joe Fiedler, a figure as esteemed in New York jazz circles as he is in the Afro-Caribbean and pop scenes. He’s an adventurous improviser and bandleader whose recordings range from solo trombone (The Howland Sessions) to quintet (Like, Strange) to trombone/tuba quartet (Big Sackbut, Sackbut Stomp, Live in Graz — “the intersection of gutbucket blues and avant-garde audacity,” JazzTimes) to chordless trio (The Crab, Sacred Chrome Orb, I’m In, Joe Fiedler Plays the Music of Albert Mangelsdorff).
Fiedler’s two Sesame Street-themed albums to date, Open Sesame and Fuzzy and Blue, pay homage to the beloved children’s show where Fiedler has worked as a music director for nearly 15 years. With bold and inventive arrangements of timeless music by Joe Raposo, Jeffrey Moss and more, Fiedler grapples with the legacy of the storied show of which he’s become an integral part. Fuzzy and Blue, opined London Jazz News, is “unnervingly satisfying — hitting a note between scripted nostalgia and improvised jazz that [is] both exciting and comforting at the same time.”
Owing to his long experience in pit bands, salsa groups and countless other professional settings, Fiedler had the opportunity to play trombone for the earliest onstage incarnation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights (not long before Hamilton’s runaway success). Tony Award-winning orchestrator Bill Sherman was on the gig and took to Fiedler, bringing him on board the newly revived children’s show Electric Company. After three seasons, Sherman and Fiedler made the transition in 2009 to Sesame Street. From playing 350 gigs a year on the freelance circuit, Fiedler officially became a Sesame Street music director, working on what would become hundreds of song arrangements and thousands of underscoring cues (and still climbing).
A Pittsburgh native and a New Yorker since 1993, Fiedler studied at Allegheny College and the University of Pittsburgh before launching into work as an in-demand sideman. He’s become one of the first-call trombonists in the world, featured on more than 100 recordings. He’s had extensive experience in the heart of the flowering big band scene, playing with Maria Schneider, Chico O’Farrill, the Mingus Big Band, Andrew Hill, Jason Lindner, Dafnis Prieto, Kenny Wheeler, Satoko Fujii, Miguel Zenón and many more. In smaller units he’s played with Lee Konitz, Anthony Braxton, Cecil Taylor, Myra Melford, Bobby Previte, David Weiss’s Endangered Species and a host of others. Fiedler also paid years of dues on the salsa and Latin circuit with Celia Cruz, Eddie Palmieri, Willie Colon, Ralph Irizarry and other major acts. His pop credits include Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Wyclef Jean, The Four Tops, Melba Moore and Lesley Gore, to name a few.
Without doubt this mass of musical experience filters into the trombonist’s mindset, the way he looks at craft, audience, band dynamics and perhaps most of all fun. Coming up in the ’80s, he recalls his favorite bands as the Jazz Passengers, Carla Bley, Ray Anderson — “bands and musicians that had this sense of humor, this sense of burlesque,” he says. Recalling the last great gasps of the downtown scene and his brushes with the early Knitting Factory bands, Fiedler knows that while many of those touchstones have disappeared, they live on still in today’s sensibilities and methods, for Fiedler as for many likeminded peers.
Fiedler’s work has always involved effortlessly hopping the boundary between charged free improvisation and music of more established tonal and formal parameters — “out” vs. “in,” as jazz musicians sometimes call it. He’s apt to draw out long and lustrous melodic tones while also manipulating his trombone sound with multiphonics and other extended techniques (playing one note and singing a higher note, sometimes producing an overtone to complete a chord). The deep sense of blues, tailgate and other earlier jazz approaches to the horn come through, as do the sonic innovations of Albert Mangelsdorff, or the hard-bop aesthetics of Slide Hampton and J.J. Johnson. As Jazz Podium wrote of his formidable solo trombone recital The Howland Sessions: “Fiedler manages to trump the master (Mangelsdorff): his chords are even broader, more colorful and more opulent.” Binding myriad influences into a signature voice, Fiedler continues to amass a reputation as a musical thinker with limitless imagination.