They are blowing his horn.
Legendary Greenpoint baritone saxophonist and activist Fred Ho may have passed away six months ago, but his music will live on when Ho’s former band, the Green Monster Big Band, comes together once again at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Oct. 4. The large ensemble is comprised of young players and jazz vets that all share one common thread, according to the band’s leader.
“Everyone had a relationship with Fred in one capacity or other,” said Marie Incontrera of the 18-piece multi-generational group.
Ho passed away in April at age 56, due to complications with cancer. But despite his untimely passing, the Marxist musician left behind an extensive catalog of politically-charged compositions, exploring themes including the black power movement, capitalism, and feminism.
The Brooklyn Academy of Music is an especially apt location for this tribute to the late — his first work opened there in 1989, and his final work closed there in Oct. 2013.
Incontrera first met Ho when she was enrolled in the New York Youth Symphony composition program, and then again when she was studying at the John Duffy Composers Institute in Norfolk, Virginia. She wound up studying privately with him for the better part of four years.
Through it all, Incontrera said she felt a kinship with Ho’s pioneering work and his confrontational spirit.
“His music is overtly political,” she said. “Everything that he does has that impetus behind it, and that’s just what I wanted to do.”
That same radical edge will be on display in the Green Monster Big Band’s performance. The group will be playing a selection of Ho’s compositions, including “Float Like A Butterfly, Sting Like An Afro Asian Bumblebee,” a swinging ode to the equally brash Muhammad Ali, and the atonal reverie “Liberation Genesis.”
Ho’s music is poised to cast a long shadow on the jazz and modern classical world in the years to come, said Incontrera. The Green Monster Big Band will continue to get together for special performances, and another of Ho’s ensembles, the Eco-Music Big Band, will keep playing some of the late composer’s more challenging works and creating original pieces inspired by them, she said.
“This was Fred’s way of passing the baton,” Incontrera said, “and encouraging new voices that are moving in the same trajectory as his own.”
Fred Ho Memorial: A Scientific Soul Green Monster Big Band Tribute at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, BAMcafe [30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Place and St. Felix Street in Fort Greene, (718) 636–4100, www.bam.org]. Oct. 4 at 9pm. Free.