After releasing more than a dozen albums with smaller ensembles, saxophonist Fred Hess released his first big-band recording, Hold On, in 2009. While Hold On represented Hess's love for the big bands of the 1950s, it also had some forward-thinking moments. Hess and company push the envelope even further with this second big-band outing, Into the Open. The opening cut, "Sooz Blooz," takes a traditional twelve-bar blues into another universe with some intricate interludes that feature Hess throwing a few cascading Oliver Nelson-esque runs into his tenor solo. Hess is in the company of some of the state's finest players — Ron Miles, Brad Goode, John Gunther and Marc Sabatella among them — who all contribute skillful solos. Seven of the eight cuts are Hess originals and showcase his brilliant compositional skills — a talent for which he's received quite a bit of recognition over the years.