Saturday, January 16, 2016

Ken Fowser - Standing Tall (Posi-Tone, 2016)

This session is led by tenor saxophonist Ken Fowser, presenting as program of original compositions in the company of Rick Germanson on piano, Paul Gill on bass, Jason Tiemann on drums and Josh Bruneau on trumpet. The music is straight up modern mainstream jazz with a focus on snappy melodies deft soloing. The album opens with the fast and swinging “Head Start” which shows the unit as a strong and supple band, and soon Fowser breaks out to a gliding and swinging solo with a medium tone reminiscent of a modern day Hank Mobley. The round-robin soloing continues with a fine spot for Bruneau, moving with aplomb and making a fine statement. The piano, bass and drum team is tight and supple, and adding fine support when the brass returns. “Off the Path” begins with a milder opening as the brass weaves contrails over the reserved rhythm section. Fowser steps out with a patient, laconic solo, unhurried by the fast pace of the world that swirls ever faster around him every day. The urgent “Mode for Red” picks up the pace considerably with the horns in overdrove surfing over a fast and driving rhythm. Fowser’s solo calms the crew with confidence and navigates the thickets of the composition and rhythm with a fine improvisation before he hands the baton to Bruneau who solos with a sense of urgency. The rhythm team keeps the music at a boil, as the band finds the escape hatch and ends this short but excellent performance. “Patience and Optimism” is a bright and swinging tune exuding good vibes in its opening statement before Fowser takes the stage for an unhurried solo, pacing himself well and never overplaying his hand. The solo rotation moves to Bruneau who has been impressive throughout punching through the air and making his presence felt in a powerful way. The subtle rhythm section gets the spotlight briefly before the horns return to lead the tune out. The title track “Standing Tall” is Fowser’s credo and centerpiece with some fine trumpet playing leading the charge. Fowser takes his place and carefully builds his own individual statement, weaving and ducking with the piano team and then adding his sound to the ensemble to move the band forth with a lack of selflessness. The horns harmonize beautifully on “Brick’s Tune” and the light touch of the pianist leads to a nice pinched (muted?) trumpet solo, before Fowser glides in with an elegant solo and the band reforms as a whole to conclude the piece. Everyone comes together for the fast and fun concluding track “Somebody’s Got to Do It” with the group riffing hard before Fowser and Bruneau slip out soloing at a slow burn. What we have here is a very well played modern jazz CD. There is nothing to spook the horses, and Fowser has definitely made a deep commitment to its success. Hopefully the music will be picked up by what remains of jazz radio and will allow him to keep the band together and further their music. Standing Tall -

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