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Fred Hess presses on.

New Tricks

Saxophonist Fred Hess is one of Denver's most accomplished jazz musicians. But he's not interested in resting on his laurels -- or resting at all, for that matter.

"I don't want to just keep doing what I've been doing," Hess says. "It's nice to feel like there's more to do."

Right now, the main task on Hess's agenda is the promotion of Exposed, a new CD on Creative Improvised Music Projects, a New York-based audiophile label; it was recorded directly onto computer, without any echo or reverb. According to Hess, the album's adventurous sound can be traced to a kick in the can he received in 1999, when he played on Coward of the County, an excellent platter credited to ex-Cream drummer and former Parker resident Ginger Baker. Among the contributors to Coward was James Carter, a new-breed sax expert whose playing "really opened my ears up," Hess says. "It let me know that there were things that people were doing in the saxophone world that I wasn't so familiar with. And I thought, 'Gee, if I want to be part of the larger collective, I need to do a little woodshedding.'"


Fred Hess Quartet

St. Cajetan's Center, 1190 Ninth Street

2 p.m. Sunday, February 10
Free admission, 303-556-3180

That's an understatement. "I spent the last three years practicing my rear end off," Hess notes. "I wanted to add a new vocabulary so I could speak a new language comfortably and not always be thinking about the old way of doing things."

On Exposed, Hess is aided in this mission by trumpeter Paul Smoker, bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Damon Short, three avant-gardists with whom he was working for the first time, and the results are fresh and vibrant. He hopes to reunite with the Exposed crew in New York this summer, but for the album's local release concert, Hess will be assisted by a trio of Denver's most skilled jazzers: trumpeter Ron Miles, bassist Ken Walker and drummer Tim Sullivan. Expect all involved to step ahead rather than look back.

"I feel like I've got a new lease on things," Hess says. "And I want to keep moving forward."


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