Fred Ho and the Afro Asian Music Ensemble

Big Red!

Innova 794


1. Kayasong* (10:56) 2. Suite Sam Furnace  (16:50) was commissioned by the Chamber Music America Jazz Commissioning Program composed while in residency at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in Woodside, CA during 2004. 3. Free Mumia!  Suite: A. Ona Move! B. Voice of the Voiceless! C. Political Power  Growing!  D. Fire in the Skies! E. Stop the Execution, Start a Revolution! (11:56) was composed while in residency at the Civitella Ranieri Center in Umbertide, Italy during 2002. 4.  Gadzo** (14:26) 5.  The Un…! And Ir…! Suite (7:12) was composed while in residency at the Civitella Ranieri Center in Umbertide, Italy during 2002. 6. Big Red! (for Malcolm X and Mao Zedong) (11:46) is dedicated to the late Richie Perez, Safiya Bukhari, Kwame Ture and Modibo (James Baker).


Total Time:  73:17


All compositions/arrangements by Fred Ho (Transformation Art Publisher/ASCAP) except **traditional Ewe song composed by Freeman Donkor, David Bindman and royal hartigan and arranged by David Bindman, royal hartigan and Fred Ho; and  *Kayasong, composed by Park Bum-hoon, arranged by Fred Ho featuring Rami Seo, 25 string kayagum and voice, with Fred Ho, baritone sax and Royal Hartigan, chang-go (Korean hourglass drum) with bass drum and high-hat.  Text is from the poem “Kayasong” by Mok Jung-bae.  Permission for “Kayasong” granted by Rami Seo and Park Bum-hoon.


**Copyright the Ewe people of Ghana and Togo, Freeman Donkor,

David Bindman and Royal Hartigan.




The baritone saxophonist-composer-band leader-writer-producer-revolutionary socialist who we knew as Fred Ho (previously Fred Houn when he debuted in the mid-1980s on Soul Note Records) died August 4, 2006 from advanced colo-rectal cancer.


Prior to is his death, he had recorded a number of new projects with his core band, The Afro Asian Music Ensemble (AAME), which never got released.  But Innova Recordings is now releasing all of these projects, which include:


Ho’s medley I Wor Kuen/No Home to Return To on the Innova compilation. The NYFA Collection: 25 years of New York Music (Innova 233)


Deadly She-Wolf Assassin at Armageddon! and

Momma’s Song, a compact disc/graphic novel (manga) (innova 788);


Big Red!, eponymous for Ho’s two biggest heroes, Malcolm X (nick-named “Big Red” while growing up in Detroit) and Mao Zedong, who indeed was a Big Red, if not indeed, the Biggest Red for leading one-quarter of the world’s people to victorious national liberation and socialist revolution!


This cd opens with Kayasong by Korean composer Park Bum-hoon (and text by Mok Jung-bae), which features singer-kayagum performer Rami Seo, AAME drummer royal hartigan on modified trap set (using bass drum and high hat played by his feet) with chango Korean hourglass drum, and Ho on baritone sax. Ho heard Seo perform this as a solo work outdoors during the summer of 2004. Since the 1990s, Ho has deeply explored many forms of matriarchal shaman musical and social-cultural traditions, but it is the Korean forms, particularly the folk opera form of pansor’i which most captivated him.  He, and I might point out others as well, have asserted that “free jazz” is the closest thing musically and spiritually to shinaui, a shamanist Korean instrumental form, for which pansor’i is its matriarchal vocal relative. 


Suite for Sam Furnace was written soon after the January 2004

passing of Ho’s long-time friend and alto saxophonist of the AAME for over 20 years, Sam Furnace, who died of aggressive liver cancer in less than a year’s time since his diagnosis in April of 2003.  (Furnace’s last recording was with Ho and David Bindman’s now-defunct Brooklyn Sax Quartet recording, The Far Side of Here on Omnitone.)


Since the early 1990s, Fred Ho was active in the struggles to free U.S. political prisoners, for which Free Mumia! Suite is committed to the freedom of America’s most renowned political prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal.  Ho often performed at benefits when few other professional performers were willing to be associated with such radical and “lost causes.”  Ho was noted for always and unflinchingly willing to devout his energy, time and talents to such “impossible” struggles.


Gadzo is based upon a traditional Ewe (one of the peoples of what is now

Ghana) song, which was traditionally used, as co-arranger David Bindman

notes, as “warrior’s music.” Traditional Ewe drum calls and rhythmic pieces are employed by drummer Royal Hartigan and bassist Wes Brown, who have studied and performed the traditional music extensively, while they were both students at Wesleyan University’s World Music program and in the band, Talking Drums. 


The Un…! And Ir…! Suite was composed

by Ho after he viewed with horror and indignation the Ken Burn’s documentary Jazz with the especially noxious and imbecilic remarks made about the “free jazz” of the 1960s, while some snippets of early Archie Shepp music played in the background. Culling the documentary’s odious and propagandistic didacticism, Ho was inspired by the Shepp snippet’s interesting close harmony and odd-meter rhythms to write part of this suite in 5/4 and other uncommon meters with very close voiced harmony among the saxophones, as well as Ho’s own Afro Asian additives of Korean percussion. 


The final selection, Big Red!, again inspired by Shepp and his  frequent poetry-music performances, uses text from the final act of Ho’s first opera,

A Chinaman’s Chance (full stage production April 1, 1989 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s then-Majestic Theater), originally a music-monologue by the character Kwan Gung, Chinese god of war and literature and the patron god of the immigrant Chinese workers. Kwan Gung accompanies the journey of the Chinese immigrants to the Americas as they change and become Chinese Americans.

In this final scene, Kwan Gung witnesses his own murder on the evening news

in 1982 with the televised reporting of the killing of 27-year old Chinese

American engineer upon the eve of his wedding by racist whites. 


Listeners are fortunate to have a diverse body of Ho’s AAME recordings prior to his passing now available through the efforts of Innova (kudos to Philip

Blackburn) and Ho’s protégé, the New Fred Ho who was born August 5, 2006.  Expect very soon to hear a new body of music by this precocious, now just over 4 years old, artistic and political progeny!


Arthur Song

Phnom Penh, Cambodia


Born 1937 in Fusan, China, Arthur Song’s mother was a legendary martial arts nun, ex-communicated from her martial arts order for bearing a child.  As a single parent, she raised her only son, Arthur, after illegally immigrating to the U.S. in the late 1950s, during the height of the U.S. exclusion against mainland China.  Arthur Song was one of the first Asian American students to matriculate from Harvard University.  He moved to New York City and became the first Asian American producer in network television.  He met Fred Ho at the Jazz Center of New York in the mid-1980s at Fred’s first tribute concert to Cal Massey and they continued their close friendship until the death of the old Fred Ho. Song is now retired and lives between Cairo and Phnom Penh.



For Sam Furnace

who performed in the Afro Asian Music Ensemble

from 1982 to his death in January, 2004

By Magdalena Gomez written December 12, 2003


I didn’t know you until tonight;

your horn took over the meeting.


Tonight I saw

the power

of relentless love;

you stood tall

against a conspiracy

of time gone mad;

a legion of invisible soldiers

pointed their brutal guns

at all the

secret places where indigo

melodies are born:

that Middle Passage

wound that haunts

and will not heal,


fiercely daring the world

to forget.


“No!  I am here!

I am alive!

This song will never

be over!”



I saw a man

stand tall,

protect an


 ancient legacy of sound born of the

Mother belly

that no dirty look,

no doubt,

no sword,

no lie,

no fire

may cauterize.

Tonight I saw

history reborn,



upheld to sing her truth

through the flesh

of a deeply lived and

soulful life.



I heard the sound

of all that matters

and all that does not;

my faith restored

in the power of love,

one note at a time.


Tonight I learned

how one man can turn

a single moment

into a lifetime;

how the sick might heal

those who think

they are well

as they walk among the dead.


You played your whole life

on a string of notes

each in her rightful place,

a strand of perfect black pearls,

You bid you good-bye to the night

leading this witness

into a new morning.


Tonight I saw

a man take a stand.




Recorded October 24, 2004 at Systems Two, Brooklyn, NY, USA. 

Engineered, Mixed, Edited and Mastered by Jon Rosenberg at The Corner Store,

Brooklyn, NY, December 20-22, 2004.


Band: Fred Ho (leader/baritone sax); Masaru Koga (alto sax); David Bindman

(tenor sax); Art Hirahara (piano and keyboards); Wesley Brown (bass); royal hartigan (drums and Chinese and Korean and African percussion). Special Guest Artist: Rami Seo (Korean vocals and kayagum) on “Kayasong.”


Artwork by Arabelle Clitandre.