Happy birthday to the underrated saxophonist/composer/activist/author Fred Wei-han Houn aka Fred Ho. His ambitious operas, ballets and multi-art compositions brought a radical, questioning temperament and a cross-mingling of improvised music and folk art to his fiery and political works. With his many groups (Asian-American Art Ensemble, Green Monster Big Band, Saxophone Liberation Front, Afro Asian Music Ensemble) he created several brilliantly charged records on labels like Innova, Mutable, Asian Improv, Soul Note and others. His concepts were informed by not just radical politics and feminism but also dance, martial arts and literary influence.
A Chinese-American who grew up in Western Massachusetts, he learned bari sax as a teenager (he also played soprano and flute). He briefly joined the Nation of Islam before membership in I Wor Kuen. Living in NYC for much of his adult life he never owned a car and made his own clothes.
His brilliant frequent collaborators included Jon Jang and Royal Hartigan, among others. His rare sideman appearances included gigs with Archie Shepp, Julius Hemphill and Gil Evans, and he was a member of the Brooklyn Sax Quartet. His battle with cancer was chronicled in books and articles before he succumbed to it a few years ago.