Tim Fitzgerald, Tim Fitzgerald’s Full House Review
by Jeff Becker
Tim Fitzgerald is a jazz guitarist based in Chicago. In addition to being a bandleader, he is also the author of the book 625 Alive: The Wes Montgomery BBC Concert Transcribed, which has been hailed as the “Ultimate Study of Wes Montgomery’s music” (Just Jazz Guitar Magazine) and “One of the 50 greatest guitar books of all time” (The 50 Greatest Guitar Books). In addition, Fitzgerald has written columns for Downbeat Magazine, Just Jazz Guitar Magazine, and Chicago Jazz Magazine and performed clinics at the Frank Mantooth Jazz Festival. As a bandleader, he leads two bands in Chicago — Tim Fitzgerald’s Full House and the Tim Fitzgerald Quartet — and is a sideman in many other projects. As a bandleader, Fitzgerald leads a large group, Full House, a seven-piece, three-horn-fronted ensemble inspired by the music of jazz great Wes Montgomery. The band features new original arrangements of Wes’ music — not just Wes Montgomery songs, but Wes’ famous chord solos and octave solos. His smaller group, The Tim Fitzgerald Quartet, features a mix of straight-ahead jazz and soul music, including Tim’s original compositions, the music of Wes Montgomery, and the music of soul jazz greats such as Dr. Lonnie Smith. Fitzgerald’s latest Montgomery-based album is called Tim Fitzgerald’s Full House.
“Jingles” is a fine starting point to drink in Fitzgerald’s playing style and deft arranging vocabulary based on Wes Montgomery. Opening with Fitzgerald and drummer George Fludas playing a duet, one can hear Fitzgerald’s tone and phrasing. The melody is nicely arranged with tasteful horn hits, and the ensemble plays beautifully as a unit. Fitzgerald’s solo is active, emphasizing ascending arpeggios as a theme. However, he also nicely balances activity and melodic phrases, especially for a modern guitarist. Chris Madsen takes over as his tenor saxophone sings with excitement and lyrical clarity. The ensemble swings hard on this one!
The ever-popular “West Coast Blues” rounds the album out and serves as a strong ending statement. The arrangement again revolves around many of the melodies, embellishments, and rhythmic devices Montgomery used throughout his career when performing his composition. Fitzgerald’s jazz vocabulary is a mix of modern jazz guitar with elements of Montgomery. However, his approach is much more active than Montgomery’s, as he plays many notes versus developing melodic motifs as Montgomery was a master of doing.
Tim Fitzgerald’s Full House is an album that evinces the same lovely identity that Wes Montgomery performed with and became iconic for doing. Fitzgerald’s arrangements of Montgomery’s themes are even-tempered and rich in colors and Montgomery’s character. Fitzgerald’s influence, Wes Montgomery, has many devoted fans, and Fitzgerald and his talented ensemble may similarly enamor those who are charmed by Montgomery’s music.