Fred Ho and the Green Monster Big Band

Year of the Tiger

Innova 789



1. The Johnny Quest Theme (Axton, Hanna and Barbera, arr. Fred Ho) (4:05)


Very, Very Baaad! Tribute Medley to Michael Jackson, (arr. Sherraden with Fred Ho)

         2. This Place Hotel (Jackson, modified by Fred Ho as Welcome to the Road Kill CafŽ!) (5:05)

         3. Bad (Very, Very Baaad!) (Jackson) (4:35)

         4. Thriller (Super-Thriller) (Temperton, with text by Gomez)  (11:08)


5. Fire (Hendrix, arr. Fred Ho) (3:33)

6. Purple Haze (Hendrix, arr. Fred Ho) (4:57)


Take the Zen Train (Fred Ho)

         7. Prelude to a Kiss Off: No Baggage, Please! (3:46)

         8. The Violence of Virtuosity (2:28)

         9. The Quick of My Being (6:32)

              10. Optometry for the Vision-less (2:53)

              11. Quarantine for the Aggressor (3:06)

         12. Beyond the Beyond (3:22)


13. Hero Among Heroes (6:02) (Fred Ho, lyrics by Ruth Margraff)

14. Blazing on the Turquoise Sea (8:00) (Fred Ho, libretto/lyrics by Ruth Margraff)



The Green Monster Big Band:

Bobby Zankel, Jim Hobbs, Hafez Modirzadeh, Salim Washington, Fred Ho, Stanton Davis, Nabate Isles, Amir el-Saffar, Taylor Ho Bynum, Bob Pilkington, Marty Wehner and Richard Harper, Earl McIntyre, Jr., David Harris, Art Hirahara, Wes Brown, Mary Halvorson, royal hartigan, Abraham Gomez-Delgado, Leena Conquest, Aaron Sherraden




1.The Johnny Quest Theme (Hoyt Axton, William Hanna and Joseph Barbara, 1964), arranged by Fred Ho, 2009 (4:05) soloists: Nabate Isles (trumpet); Hafez Modirzadeh (tenor sax) with Amir ElSaffar (trumpet); and Salim Washington (flute) / Very, Very Baaad! Tribute Medley to Michael Jackson, arranged by Aaron Sherraden with Fred Ho, 2009 2.This Place Hotel by Michael Jackson, modified by Fred Ho as Welcome to the Road Kill Café! (5:05) 3.Bad (Very, Very Baaad!) by Michael Jackson (4:35) 4.Thriller (Super-Thriller) by Rod Temperton (11:08).With narrative text by Magdalena Gomez. Guest vocals: Leena Conquest and Abraham Gomez-Delgado Soloists: Art Hirahara (keyboard); Richard Harper (trombone); Salim Washington (tenor sax); Bob Pilkington (trombone); David Harris and Earl McIntyre (bass trombones); Aaron Sherraden (electric bass).  / 5.Fire by Jimi Hendrix, arranged by Fred Ho, 2009 (3:33) / 6.Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix, arranged by Fred Ho, 2009 (4:57) / Tracks 7-12  Take the Zen Train composed and arranged by Fred Ho, 2009.  Commissioned by the

Harvard University Office of the Arts. Published by Transformation Art Publisher

7.Prelude to a Kiss Off: No Baggage, Please! (3:46) Soloists: Hafez Modirzadeh (tenor sax); Fred Ho (baritone sax); Nabate Isles (trumpet) / 8.The Violence of Virtuosity (2:28) Soloists: David Harris (bass trombone)/ 9.The Quick of My Being (6:32) Soloists:  Jim Hobbs (alto sax); Hafez Modirzadeh (tenor sax); Marty Wehner (trombone) / 10.Optometry for the Vision-less (2:53) / 11.Quarantine for the Aggressor (3:06) /

12.Beyond the Beyond (3:22) Soloist: Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet) / 13.Hero Among Heroes (6:02) music by Fred Ho and lyrics by Ruth Margraff for special choir and chamber orchestra/The Afro Asian Music Ensemble. /14.Blazing on the Turquoise Sea (8:00), a work-in-progress opera, CLEOPATRA.  Music by Fred Ho, libretto/lyrics by Ruth Margraff.




Composer’s Notes


“You can’t be neutral on a moving train.”  Howard Zinn


“The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.” 

  Jean Jacques Rousseau


“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”  Albert Einstein


“Authentic politics is the art of the impossible.”  S. Zizek


“Imagination is intelligence with an erection.”  Victor Hugo


“Everything possible has been tried and nothing has changed. 

  What we need is the impossible.”  Sun Ra


I am still alive, after a more than four-year war against advanced colo-rectal cancer (stage 3b), which included seven surgeries, three chemotherapy and radiation sessions (exhausting all chemo drugs made to date for treating colo-rectal cancer), and a litany of physical losses.  The love of so many people and my unique combat strategy has kept me alive.  My Diary of a Radical Cancer Warrior: Fighting Cancer and Capitalism at the Cellular Level details this journey.  People who are timid often remark how they believe social revolution is impossible because The Enemy has so much military might, technology, media dominance, etc. etc. etc.  It was the late great Chairman Mao who incontrovertibly proved all the doubters wrong.  After my third tumor and all the chemotherapy drugs of western medicine had failed, I was given 1 in 30,000 chances of living.  But I took Chairman Mao’s prescription and sent myself to the countryside.  I am still alive. 


Continuing on with my deconstruction of American popular culture is my arrangement of the first animated primetime television series, Johnny Quest.  Johnny was the 10 year old son of military industrial complex super-scientist Dr. Benton Quest, who with their Special Forces body guard, the platinum blond Roger “Race” Bannon, Johnny’s friend, the first South Asian character on American TV, Haji, and their bulldog Bandit, traveled the globe every Friday night taking on Cold War adversaries and spies, the paranormal, mad scientists, and other deadly anomalies.  Despite the Cold War propaganda and Orientalist stereotypes, what I was drawn to at age 6 or 7 was the blazing big band theme and soundtrack, which preceded a decade of fantastic TV themes and soundtracks like the Peter Gunn Theme, the Mission: Impossible Theme, the Ironside theme, the Hawaii 5-0 Theme, the Man from Uncle Theme, etc.  We hope you enjoy our version of THE JOHNNY QUEST THEME.


Mr. Michael Jackson passed in mid-2009.  He was the premier purveyor of American POP music (pop spelled with a capital P and not a small p, which would be the music created by America’s working class communities and ethnicities, instead of that music appropriated and sold back to the masses as commercialized cultural malnutrition, ie., pabulum).  But despite his role and service to the forces of commercialism, his artistic genius nonetheless was significant for evoking profundity from simplicity, for evoking soul from the ersatz, for giving powerful performance spectacles to the the powerless and passive spectators.  This was the contradiction of the man and his art.  For creating commodity spectacle, he became the spectacle, despite his performative brilliance.  Listen to the two bar ostinato in BAD.  The first bar is 3 quarter notes and 2 eighth notes.  The second half of that two bar phrase is inverted: 3 eighth notes and 2 quarters.  This medley arranged by our guest bassist Aaron Sheradden with myself features 3 Jackson canonic works: THIS PLACE HOTEL (and what we’ve adapted to be WELCOME TO THE ROAD KILL CAFÉ), BAD (which we’ve adapted to be VERY, VERY BAAAAD), and THRILLER (which we’ve adapted to be SUPER THRILLER).  We hope you dig our tribute.


The late virtuoso guitarist and composer Jimi Hendrix was incomparable.  Not only was he influenced by the Coltrane and Black Arts Movement zeitgeist, he in turn influenced the post-straight-ahead developments of Miles Davis, what some have referred to as Miles’ Bitches Brew period.  Here are two Hendrix classics from his very first album release, FIRE and PURPLE HAZE (“Living in the God Damn Matrix*”), the latter being a Wachowskis-Chomsky style version.


* “What is The Matrix?  Control…The Matrix is the system.  And that System is our enemy.  Morpheus from The Matrix.


In November of 2009, I received the Harvard Arts Medal, a tremendously prestigious honor (there have been only 15 other award recipients, including Jack Lemmon, John Updike, Yo-Yo Ma, Pete Seeger...).


As part of this award, I received a commission to develop a new big band score with student dancers commissioned by the Office of the Arts at Harvard, and performed by the Harvard Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Thomas Everett, and dance choreographed by Daniel Jaquez with students Melissa Alexander, Teake Chen and Shayna Skad. 


I wanted TAKE THE ZEN TRAIN to be an oblique homage to the great African American orchestral works (so-called “jazz big band”) by  maestro Edward Kennedy Ellington, III (“Duke” Ellington), particularly his classic Take the “A” Train, but I never wanted my score to replicate anything done by the maestro or for that matter, anyone else.  Rather, as TAKE THE ZEN TRAIN expresses, I am a locomotive on a journey to the future without any baggage, without any past or present predeterminations or preconditions.  The title is a statement of my mission on this planet: to do the activism and art that no one else can or will do.  It is an exploration and pursuit of the Impossible, for which Imagination is the engine and energy for that train.  I hope it becomes a new mass transit system!


Much of the harmonic character could reductively be described as “modal” (I’m a child of the sixties “free jazz”) yet with a clear system of harmonization that is indelibly my own.  The changes in tempi, meter, yet all driven by the west/central-African-descended kinetics and what Dr. Roland Wiggins, the greatest theoretician of African American music today, has described as the “interference of periodicity” or multiple rhythmic layering that has made for what has been popularly called “swing.”  Melodically, I wanted to explore mostly 12-tone chromaticism against “modal” foundations, while retaining a “bluesy” sensibility of expressive, soulful vocalizations of pitch.  Given the limitations of western musical codification, some of the “chord” changes have been described in the score as “exotic/altered”, meaning that all pitches and temperaments are encouraged. 


Movement 1: Prelude to a Kiss Off: No Baggage, Please! is an “all aboard” summons that the journey into the future should proceed without past hindrances of any kind, including dogma, sectarianism, issues and grudges.  It is a requirement to “travel light.”  Musically, with a much-to-do fanfare, a short homage quote to TAKE THE “A” TRAIN, we really take off, fast, furious and full of zesty zen.


Movement 2: The Violence of Virtuosity is an interpellation and a warning against our fascination with and fetishism of skill, technique, technology, efficiency and the quantitative (the “treadmill” or “The Machine”).  Industrial capitalism, both as a mode of production and as a culture, has born a myriad of monstrosities, relentless and soul-less, as cancer and capitalism have become inextricable as accelerative malignant growth processes.



Movement 3:  The Quick of My Being, is the slowest tempo of all the movements, understanding, as every young musician or seeker of Bushido learns, that the path of constant excellence requires patience, discipline, internalization and a profound understanding that is intuitive (as Bruce Lee said, “the point of technique is to have no technique”). 


Movement 4:  Optometry for the Vision-less is a prescription for those who are mired in reformist pragmatism (the “possible”), which is the first symptom of opportunism (“easy-way-out-ism”).  Part of attaining better and clearer vision is to see/hear feel outside of the conventional, including 4/4 meter, so a lot of this movement is in 11/4.


Movement 5:  Quarantine the Aggressor is an assertion made by another

Harvard alum, the great singer-performer, Pete Seeger (Class of 1940 and a Harvard Arts Medal recipient), who, while at Harvard as an undergrad during the late-1930s, in debates with fellow students about how to respond to the aggressive rise of Fascism both internationally and domestically, advocated this approach.  Earlier human societies, devoid of militarism or capital punishment, would use this method of dealing with the most heinous and egregious offenses to their community.


Movement 6:  Beyond the Beyond, is the beginning into unpredictable and uncharted territory in which ensemble and individual seek to attain oneness without forsaking improvisation and uniqueness for the iniquity of individualism and egotism.  The principles of “free” improvisation and “conduction” are employed as well as dynamic expansiveness, “from a whisper to a scream” and back to that whisper of unspoken telepathy and empathy. 


I dedicate TAKE THE ZEN TRAIN to my mother, Frances Lu Houn, and to the

Warriors for Fred who have helped me fight cancer. 


All Love, Fred Ho (still alive as of November 1, 2010)

P.S.  I have added two bonus tracks, HERO AMONG HEROES which features children and adult choir and a unique chamber orchestra ensemble, based upon a Chinese martial arts folk anthem; and a song, BLAZING ON THE TURQUOISE SEA, which is an excerpt from a new operatic collaboration between long-time friend and co-writer, Ruth Margraff, CLEOPATRA, QUEEN OF EGYPT. 


*Opening boys’ quintet choir: Damiyr Davis, Sam Fox, Christopher Kelly, Alex Neiman-Zych and Justy Kosek.  Featuring the Children’s Choir at the Manhattan Country School led by Clinton Ingram:  Kelsey Barbosa, Akane Gauntt, Brandon Johnson, Janet Ortiz, Hyun Jae Park, Jamie Richards, Jamie-Leigh Savage-Backmon, Tyra Booker, Adin Levy, Najha Zigbi-Johnson, Alyssa Freeman, Cabrielle Green, Damiyr Davis, Sam Fox, Christopher Kelly, Ken Kojima, Alex Neiman-Zych, Victoria Ortiz, Riyo Saji, Amanda Bogacz, Will Havercroft, Siena Kemp, Justy Kosek, Urara Muramatsu, Skylar Yesair, Shannon Dawson.


Adult choir: Del Fionn Sykes (Soprano 1); Haleh Abghari (Soprano 2 & 3);

Christina Nuki (Soprano 4); Jennifer Kidwell (Alto); Lynn Randolph Brown (tenor); Dax Valdes (Baritone); Michael Douglas Jones (Bass-Baritone).


Music performed by Fred Ho and the Afro Asian Music Ensemble: Fred Ho (baritone sax, leader); Jim Hobbs (alto sax); David Bindman (tenor savx); Richard Harper (piano and keyboards and trombone solo on “Naima”); Wesley Brown (bass); royal hartigan (drums & percussion).  Guest musicians on Hero Among Heroes:  Sean Yancer, (Horn in F); Richard Harper (Trombone); Kelly Peng (Chinese pipa); Patti Monson (Chinese dizi); Yu Zhang (Chinese sona).


** Vocals: Del Fionn Sykes (Soprano 1); Haleh Abghari

(Soprano 2 & 3); Christina Nuki (Soprano 4); Jennifer Kidwell (Alto); Lynn Randolph Brown (tenor); Dax Valdes (Baritone); Michael Douglas Jones (Bass-Baritone)

The Afro Asian Music Ensemble: Fred Ho (baritone sax, leader); Jim Hobbs (alto sax); David Bindman (tenor sax); Richard Harper (piano and keyboards and trombone solo on “Naima”); Wesley Brown (bass); royal hartigan (drums & percussion).


Tracks 11-12 were recorded October 2, 2004 at Systems Two, Brooklyn, NY.  Engineer: Jon Rosenberg.  Mixed, edited and mastered December 13, 15, 18, and 20, 2004 at The Corner Store in Brooklyn, NY.  Children’s Choir recorded December 14, 2004 live at the Manhattan Country School.  Yu Zhang sona overdub recorded November 23, 2004 at Jon Evan’s studio in Berkeley, CA.


Special thanks to:

Aaron Ali Shaikh, Mallory Miller (a true gentleman), Clinton Ingram and the students, parents, administration and staff of the Manhattan Country School (Michele Sola, Cynthia Rogers, Ray Jones).



By Magdalena Gomez 


Billboards spread across the land

midnight shoppers, cards in hand

in frenzy, romp from sale to sale

wallets limp, faces pale


Government ghouls foul the air

with fart-fueled speeches

of star spangled flair

hiding the stripes in their underwear


Zombie dynasties

rule the land

simply new faces

on an ancient plan

Bulls and bears and corporations

squirt their slime into open mouth


zombies rise as brothers keepers

apathy’s tongue thrust deep

into the American Dream’s

torn orifice

“yummy, yummy” the people swoon

from the comfort of their living rooms

From funkified to junkified

the masses commit suicide

from the face to face love and hi-five’s

to FB, Google and Tweet me, jive

Light up another cigarette

I get hard from the sound of your hacking been searching for love in cyberspace

then viruses come attacking


Souls bereft and losing ground

ka-ching, ka-ching, the monsters growl

glimmering counters, shimmering chic

high heels clamp on reckless feet

that can’t outrun the hounds of hell

sulphur disguised by celebrity scents

draped in fashion’s accoutrements


Funky armpits lure the masses

to spray and roll and fill all holes

wiping clean the scent of ass

until it squeaks like perfect glass


In the mirror your body shivers

imperfections slice you into slivers

your self-esteem on the dressing room floor where the you that was,

now is no more

running from life and skipping dinner

zombies buy and sell to become the

the idol, the winner, the thriller.



Hero of Heroes! 

Aka Hero Among (all) Heroes!

Lyrics by Ruth Margraff

© 2004 For Wong Fei-hung and Fred Ho


Face the struggle to be strong

With blood hotter than the sun

Will of iron

Dragon hearted

Local and afar

Help the weak an poor

With noble sentiments

Fiercest eye.


Seeing future worlds

Visionary way

Be invincible

Hero of Heroes!

Hero of the people!

Hero of


Striving for improvement every day For drunken-fisted grace

Black flag unfurling


passionately burning like

Ten Tiger suns

Hero among heroes!

Fearing not the labor, sacrifice,

Debt of tears

Though the grass be knives

Though the trees be swords

Mountains roaring

Face a thousand dangers

With blood burning red

Striving for improvement every day

For drunken-fisted grace

Black flag unfurling

Heroes passionately burning like

Ten Tiger suns

Master of the No-Shadow kick

With blovod hotter than than

The blazing sky

Iron will

Help the weak and poor

Carving future worlds

Visionary ways

Struggle to be strong

Tiger Dragon Crane

Dragon Cannon Fist

Master Wong Fei-hung

Hero of Heroes!




Blazing on the Turquoise Sea

(Love Aria between Antony and Cleopatra)

Lyrics © 2001 Ruth Margraff


Yeah she burned

Like a gypsy coin

Colossal clay

She set to flame.

Her man of men,

Her Atlas lion

Caught her blazing

Gold on the water.

On her ship

He spread the Nile

Striding like thunder

Across the sky.

And he burned

Gold on the water.

Their eyes…were of molten sun

Plumed with serpents

Of the purple seas.

Fate and furies knew his mighty legions

His sword, his ships’ battle cry

Valour preyed on reason’s rose

Flames of reckless power pulsing

Suck’d the fangs of Egypt rising.


As they yearned

As they burned

Lord they yearned

On the water.


She threw her kingdom to the wind

Turquoise dreams

Rome’s dull pillow

She left unpressed.


Break the size of brazen dreaming


Shatter darkness, size of sorrow

The worms of Caesars will grovel

As they burn

And we burn


Mark Antony, third pillar ever,

Treason here to anchor me

Shine on grace to grow where the

Blood flows of its venom ember

Rolling on the velvet fire

Burn, baby, burn

On the turquoise sea.

As we bereave the blazing harbor

Bathe our glory in lust of love

and molten need

Grieft that smites at the root of heaven

Bondage of cruel dusk

Drag me in chains.

Rather bury me in the Nilus water

Steeped in serpentine vein

If I be Cleopatra

You be Hell

If you be dying Antony

I die as well.


Lighting gold

Blazing on the water.


Burn, baby, burn

Burn, baby, burn

Burned like gold

On the water.


(Egypt, I am dying.)



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Brooklyn, NY 11222


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