Fred Ho ’79 has a long, warm, and artistically rich affiliation with the Office for the Arts at Harvard and Harvard Jazz Bands. As an undergraduate, Ho received an OFA grant for music composition. As a professional, he has returned many times, including as Peter Ivers Visiting Artist through our Learning From Performers program, and as a guest of the Jazz Band. In 2009, Ho was awarded the Harvard Arts Medal. He returned to Cambridge in 2011, commissioned by then director of bands and long-time Ho advocate Tom Everett, to premiere The Soul Science Stomp for big band and dancers.
On October 11 and 12 in Brooklyn, Ho presented a monumental new work, The Sweet Science Suite: A Scientific Soul Music Honoring of Muhammad Ali at Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival. It was billed as Ho’s final grand work, due to Stage Four-C metastatic cancer. Deena Anderson, LFP program associate at the OFA, and I attended on the second night. We were knocked flat.
Conceived and composed by Ho, the ambitious work in five movements was a power-packed interdisciplinary statement of spectacular martial arts movement, complex music performed by Ho’s 18-piece Green Monster Band, and fully integrated lighting, video and costume design. Ho’s compositions, a showcase for brass, were full of a robust energy, anger and, in the end, funk and joy. Tenor saxophonist and composer Don Braden’85 (interim director of the Harvard Monday Jazz Band) performed in the sax section and delivered a gorgeous solo.
“I could hear the musical influences of Sun Ra, Mingus, Ellington and Pharaoh Sanders, especially during Don Braden’s solo. He channeled Pharaoh for sure, and that’s what Fred wanted,” Deena said to me. Read more…