October 26, 2020 @ 7:30 pm – 10:00 pm UTC-7
October 19, 2020 @ 7:30 pm – 10:00 pm UTC-7
October 13, 2020 @ 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm UTC-7
Jazz@The point festival
October 12, 2020 @ 7:30 pm – 10:00 pm UTC-7
October 5, 2020 @ 7:30 pm – 10:00 pm UTC-7
Ken Fowser – Right On Time – Posi-Tone Records PR8191 56:02 ***** 5 stars
On his eighth release for Posi-Tone Records, Ken Fowser has established his credentials as a composer and band leader. Fronting an impressive sextet (Joe Magnarelli/trumpet; Steve Davis/trombone; Ed Cherry/guitar; Brian Charette/organ; and Willie Jones III/drums), Fowser opens stylishly on “Stand Clear Of The Closing Doors”. With organ guitar and drums anchoring the bluesy jam, the saxophonist solos first with a concise straight jazz feeling. Charette follows on organ, displaying accessible soul chops before handing it off to Ed Cherry’s groove-based hooks. The composition (all originals) has chord modulations, a cool vamp and repeat chorus. With Latin-infused imagery, “Samba For Joe Bim” reflects the band chemistry, showcasing fluid sax runs and nimble drum accents. On “Duck And Cover” the group emulates straight ahead jazz with an agile solo on saxophone that segues to finger-snapping runs by trumpeter Joe Magnarelli and trombonist Steve Davis. Charette’s sprightly organ percolates, driven by Cherry and Jones. The arrangement skills of Fowser are on display with “ No Filter”. The introduction displays harmonic elasticity as Fowser, Davis and Magnarelli intermingle with fluency. Every instrumentalist gets to solo with finesse and colorful inflection. It is classic jazz and consistent with great jazz ensembles of the past. The group reunites at the end with glowing texture and eloquence.
In a change of pace, “Don’t Let Life Pass You By” is structured by a gentler 3/4 time signature. Fowser’s “blue” saxophone has both delicacy and potency with the right amount of flourish. Charette’s airy, melodic solo is hypnotic and Cherry’s wistful guitar sways with relaxed inflection. There is an organic murmur inside the jam. Drummer Jones kicks off”On My Way” with attitude. This medium-swing number features dynamic solos from Fowser and Charette with several drum fills and syncopation. The horns return for “Keep Doing What You’re Doing”. Revisiting blues/jazz, the sextet glides with fierce precision, replete with “nasty” solos by everyone. When they combine it is a tapestry of in-the-pocket erudition. “Fowser Time” is a full ensemble arrangement with a triple lead (sax, trumpet and trombone). Charette anchors the rhythm section. Fowler gets things started with a muscular solo framed by a chord modulation. Davis’ saucy trombone is next and is followed by Cherry’s hook-driven run and Magnarelli’s crisp trumpet notation. Charette adds another soul jazz solo before the triple lead wraps things up with judicious timing. In a nod to melancholy, Fowser and Cherry share a harmony lead in a low-key waltz (“A Poem For Elaine”). There is considerable atmospheric resonance as Fowser, Cherry and Charette solo respectively. The finale “Knights Of The Round is vibrant and up tempo. The reed/brass combination is blended with adroit cohesion. In succession, Fowser, Manganelli, Cherry and Charette cook with ferocity. A well-deserved solo by Jones leads to the big finish.
The aptly titled Right On Time is a great jazz achievement.
Tenorist Ken Fowser isn’t one to waste time or mince words on distractions peripheral to musical expression, particularly when there’s a seasoned band under his name available to engage in the same. Now Hear This! reflects that directness of character and intent in both title and content with a program of eleven originals built for hard, no-frills blowing. His colleagues on the date are comparably-minded, greeting the concise postbop vehicles provided with collective élan and an emphasis on candor and precision.
“Blast Off” a credible opener in conveying the larger intent behind the album with a tight, propulsive head and biting solos from the leader, trumpeter Josh Bruneau and pianist Rick Germanson in short order. “Hear and Now” dials down the tempo slightly, but the rhythm section led by Germanson still swings strongly on the flowing, vampish beat anchored by the supple walking line from bassist Paul Gill. Bruneau switches to the rounder tones of flugelhorn for his statement before deferring to a piano sortie stamped with sharper angles.
“Blues for Mabes” gives a shout out to septuagenarian pianist Harold Mabern, Jr. and the sort of boogaloo-infused burners that were the elder’s buttered bread in the employ of bandleaders like Art Blakey and Lee Morgan. An aggressive rolling backbeat works as flexible springboard for loose-limbed tenor locution answered by Bruneau’s crisp trills and runs. Germanson’s the real star of the piece though with a block chord showcase that’s deep in the pocket without feeling constrictive. That balance of clean, logical linearity and emotive thrust carries through across the entirety of the session.
None of Fowser’s tunes stray too far from the winning formula of past masters of the idiom, but that fealty is part of the music’s underlying charm. “One and Done” and “Fair to Middlin’” echo their numerous antecedents in the venerated Blue Note and Prestige catalogs with familiar hardbop-minted structures while retaining enough original Fowser-inculcated DNA to resist the charge of opportune imitation. Backed up by top gear blowing and a palpable sense of shared purpose and propriety the results can’t help but come across as winsome and worthwhile.
Last year, when we reviewed Ken Fowser’s initial CD as band leader, (his previous issues for PosiTone shared the limelight with co-leader Behn Gillece) Standing Tall, (http://www.audaud.com/ken-fowser-standing-tall-posi-tone/) our conclusion was that Fowser was spot on in bringing hard bop fans a solid set of free wheeling jazz with a swagger. He once again shares the front line with trumpeter, Josh Bruneau, and their blend continues to impress.
Once more, Fowser has written all the compositions, and there is a maturity and a polished sheen from the get-go. “Blast Off” does just that, and Fowser makes his solo choruses pop in an effortless manner that keeps your attention and swings mightily. When Bruneau joins in, it recalls the Blue Note issues when tenor and trumpet highlighted hard bop’s appeal throughout the late ‘50s into the late ‘60s. Its appeal remains intoxicating.
That attraction demanded a strong piano presence, and Rick Germanson is back again to fill that bill ably. His sparkling lines provide the sound stage for the front line horns to emote and improvise. On “ Blues for Mabes,” a tribute to Harold Mabern, Rick channels
Horace Silver, with a Caribbean lilt, as Ken and Josh testify.
“The View from Below” is an increase in intensity and the quintet is up to the task. Drummer Jason Tiemann propels this tune. The title track is a feature for Fowser and his rapid fire delivery provides a stepping stone for Bruneau to further escalate in his solo. “Ready the Mops” (I wonder where the inspiration for the title lies) closes this fine release and all the members stretch out. Paul Gill’s bowed bass solo stands out.
Fans of classic hard bop should definitely Now Hear This…
Taking a cue from some of the other smaller jazz-based labels, Posi-Tone has done a remarkable job over the past few years of building a roster of budding talents worthy of wider recognition. Part of the allure of such an endeavor is the ability to see the evolution of an artist’s muse unfolding like a rose. Those in the know have heard from tenor saxophonist Ken Fowser through his partnership with vibraphonist Behn Gillece via the four albums the two co-led starting with 2009’s Full View. Fowser’s own maiden voyage was last year’s Standing Tall, which is to be followed up with Now Hear This.
Built on a program of eleven original pieces by Fowser himself, this superb date recalls some of the finest iconic Blue Notes, and that is said with the utmost respect to the saxophonist and his peers. Although it comes about halfway through the program, a blistering “The View from Below” puts the ensemble through their paces. Trumpeter Joshua Bruneau shows us his bristling timbre, making him a perfect foil for Fowser’s more burnished sound. Having studied with Ralph Lalama, Grant Stewart, and Eric Alexander you can hear the amalgam that is part of the charm of Fowser’s approach.
The range of material here is diverse and disparate, from the boogaloo of “Blues for Mabes” that perfectly recalls its namesake to the muscular bossa of “One and Done,” which features one of Fowser’s best moments. The waltz tempo of “Still Standing” finds pianist Rick Germanson channeling McCoy Tyner during his time in the spotlight, while Fowser rifles off a few of Eric Alexander’s pet phrases, which in turn actually came down via the great George Coleman.
Dropping the tempo, “Fair to Middlin'” sits squarely in the pocket thanks to the drumming of Jason Tiemann. His drums and cymbals are rendered crisply and with just the right amount of ring and reverb. Fowser takes his time while telling his story, playing against the grain of Germanson’s thick chords. Bruneau gets to the core of the moment while bassist Paul Gill takes a rare solo that serves as the icing on top of the cake.
The medium to fast-paced tempos on “Ready the Mops,” “Blast Off,” and “Now Hear This!” really do give Fowser and Bruneau a chance to shine. They have worked out appropriate voicings and routines that provide for interest and variety. While this reviewer has previously stated a caveat in regards to Posi-Tone’s penchant for short numbers undeniably aimed for radio airplay, nothing here seems forced or lacking in development. Although the year is still young, this is one of the best sets to come down the pike so far.