The Fearless Flyers are kind of a super-group featuring Joe Dart and Cory Wong from Vulfpeck, Mark Lettieri from Snarky Puppy and Nate Smith (Nate Smith, Chris Potter ). Tailwinds is their first full length album following its two EPS, Fearless Flyers I and II.
Although the band is an offshoot, they are definitely distinctive in sound and cutting their own path. They’ve performed a few live shows including opening for Vulfpeck at the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden.
For this fine effort, they recruited their own horn section, the Delta Force, featuring Alekos Syropoulos (alto sax), Kenni Holmen (tenor sax) and Grace Kelly (baritone sax). Here’s my track-by-track rundown accompanied by each track’s video –
Nate Smith is the Ace of Aces opens with a Nate drumroll (what else?) before Delta Force horns pop in and you know this will be a different FF album. The jangalang from the guitars bouncing off the guitars is super funky. Midway through the inimitable Joe Dart takes a fuzzed bass solo followed by Alekos Syropoulos with a a funky alto solo and then the head closes it out.
Introducing Delta Force Features the horn section (as expected) with Grace Kelly providing some pounding punctuating notes throughout. Dart takes another outstanding solo turn early on. There’s a terrific near classical guitar to horn transition followed by a tight guitar solo from Mark Lettieri and then Nate takes his first solo on the album. The horns come back with a funky chorus to the closeout.
Colonel Panic opens with a burst from the full band. The horns are stroking a strong repeat pattern and Grace is excellent on the bottom. Nate takes another fun solo before the homs put on a trading show. Cory starts strumming some hot licks and Lettieri fills with a super funky fuzzy solo at mind blowing speed. On the ride out the full band reaches maximum speed in unison
Ambush sets itself apart as the only tune without horns on the album. Cory plays a quasi-metal rock-like opening. This is classic FF highly the exceptional skills of all three guitarists. Cory carries the main theme throughout most of the tune and it’s a short but powerful one overall.
The Birdwatcher is an overall cheerful tune features a soprano sax solo from Kenni Holmen (as opposed to the usual tenor). Grace is blowing the main line of the tune which has wonderful horn interplay. Grace, Nate and Joe form a super funky trio with Alekos and Keeni filling to a tremendous build back to the main line. It closes with a bird chirping sound (no surprises) right to the end.
Assassin starts with a trademark Cory solo with some high speed horns led by Alekos on alto. The tune has somewhat of a Steely Dan feel, but faster. The Joe-Nate duo halfway through is a funk power groove. This is followed by a high alto solo then dropping down to tenor. Kenni’s solo on tenor accelerates to a feverish altissimo section, always a favorite, before the close.
Adrienne and Adrianne begins with a tenor solo sounding like guitar-bass (wow) before the band enters (literally) in unison. There’s more tenor to be had with some exchanges with Grace on bari sax with the alto pitching in next. The horn trading here is definitely a highlight. When Joe and Nate play off each other it sounds little like Tower of Power’s “On the Serious Side.” Joe passes back and forth with Nate and takes a nifty but short solo. The horn chorus and full band return to close out the tune and the album.
Nate Smith — drums
Mark Lettieri — small guitar
Cory Wong — medium guitar
Joe Dart — big guitar
Delta Force horns:
Alekos Syropoulos — small sax
Kenni Holmen — medium sax
Grace Kelly — big sax
Jack Stratton — mixing , camera
Michael Nelson — horn arranger
Joseph Lorge — engineer