Ken Fowser – Standing Tall – Posi-Tone PR 8145, 58:55 ****:
(Ken Fowser – tenor sax; Josh Bruneau – trumpet; Rick Germanson – piano; Paul Gill – bass; Jason Tiemann – drums)
While tenor saxophonist Ken Fowser has recorded four CDs for the Posi-Tone label going back to 2009, they have all been as a co-leader with vibraphonist Behn Gillece. With his new release, Standing Tall, Fowser easily claims he was more than ready to take the solo spotlight. Having written all twelve solid compositions, it’s a wonder that it has taken this long to make his leader debut.
From the opening track, “Head Start,” all the way to the closer, “Somebody Got to Do It”, there is an up-front hard bop swagger that is deeply contagious. It brings to mind Eric Alexander’s work with Jim Rotondi on One For All, as Fowser effortlessly tears into the melody along with front line mate, trumpeter Josh Bruneau. Pianist Rick Germanson is fully involved laying down sparkling piano accompaniment, both comping and taking lead. The ensemble blend is a modern version of a Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, both soulful and sophisticated.
It’s music that you will find regularly at both Smoke and Smalls in New York City where Fowser has found a home. “Filling in the Blanks” has some righteous tenor blues credentials, and Germanson contributes mightily. Some serious “head-nodding” ensues. “Mode for Red” is an up tempo burner showing Ken and Josh in high gear. The title track is a sweet ballad showing off a silky smooth gentle side.
Producer Marc Free, working with engineering partner Nick O’Toole gets the sound mix just right. They’ve got a winning combo with this septet. Let’s hope they return to the recording studio soon. The title of this CD says it all…
TrackList: Head Start, Lucid Dreaming, Filling in the Blanks, Off the Path, Mode for Red, The Fade Away, Patience and Optimism, Standing Tall, Hanging On, Brick’s Tune, Timeless, Somebody Got to Do It
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