Roughly 27 years ago Stan Getz made one of the finest duet recordings on the Blue Note label with pianist label. Now the aptly titled Top Shelf picks up where Poetry left off. Granted this release is a sextet with attitude but Fowser and Gillece and the modern jazz evolution of tenor saxophone and vibraphone. Michael Dease sits in on trombone and pushes the front line to the next dimension while the rhythm section of Steve Einerson on piano, Dezron Douglas and Rodney Green on drums take the ten original compositions with the obvious attitude of swing hard or go home! This fourth release may well be arguably the finest with their own special brand of swing. I once asked Posi-Tone drummer Jordan Young, “Do you learn swing or is an innate ability to find your own groove?” Young’s answer was probably the best I have hears and certainly an apt description of this stellar release when he replied “How do you know you are in love? Is it a simple feeling with complex nuances or is it something learned from watching others?”
There are almost too many highlights to list here. “Slick” along with “Ginger Swing” and “Top Shelf” are perfectly titles pieces for a release that is “Top Shelf.” The Gillece tune has a cross mixture sound of the more traditional Blue Note and Impulse sounds. A different type of swing, slightly disjointed but melodically accessible with a straight ahead flair other working bands struggle for years and still run dry. “Ginger Swing” is a minor key, deconstructed swing that creates a unique dynamic tension that most bands struggle with to this day. “Top Shelf” is minor blues, free and open ended.
The improvisational skill level within the band is off the charts (pardon the pun). Fowser and Gillece are like Getz and Tjader, while the physical presence has left the planet, their spiritual dynamic will continue to move forth and grow as long as one of the finest straight ahead labels in Posi-Tone still exists.