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Jazziz Magazine tells us about “Standing Tall” by Ken Fowser

mindset2Having co-led three sessions with vibraphonist Behn Gillece on Posi-Tone Records, saxophonist and composer Ken Fowser is a staple of the imprint. However, he’s just now releasing his first album for Posi-Tone under his name alone. The aptly titled Standing Tall proves an auspicious debut, as Fowser displays his lush and heady tenor sound on a set of bluesy original compositions. Leading a like-minded quintet, the New York-based saxophonist evinces the classic hard-bop era, finding simpatico tones and phrases in frontline partner Josh Bruneau’s trumpet and Rick Germanson’s piano. Bassist Paul Gill and drummer Jason Tiemann provide sensitivity and propulsion in equal measures, and the ensemble should hit the sweet spot for fans of Blue Note’s golden age. In fact, “Head Start,” included here, opens the album with a riff-rich tune that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on an Art Blakey and the Jazz Messenger’s album. Fowser, Bruneau and Germanson take turns on soulful solos, while Tiemann’s stick work drives the team.

JAZZIZ Magazine

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Nick Bewsey praises the harmonic grooves of “Standing Tall”

Ken Fowser  four 1/2 stars
Standing Tall – Posi-Tone

After co-leading four records on the Posi-Tone label with vibraphonist Behn Gillece, tenor saxophonist Ken Fowser revs his own engine on his fast and furiously entertaining debut release, Standing Tall. A former University of the Arts student in Philadelphia, Fowser has crafted
a free-wheeling gem, boldly exploring harmonic grooves and smooth, textured rhythms with a fine band that seduces on ear-friendly tracks like “Head Start,” thrills with fleet changes on “Mode For Red,” and chills you out with the cool blues, “Filling In The Blanks.” Well-conceived and spirited in execution, his assertive compositions are
punched up by his quintet of up-andcoming players and the in-demand pianist Rick Germanson. Fowser not only succeeds in making a terrific modern jazz record, he brings an original, contemporary voice and a resounding agenda to swing, along with fond echoes of early jam records made by Philly greats like Benny Golson, McCoy Tyner and Prestige era Coltrane. (12 tracks; 59 minutes)


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Dusted in Exile covers Ken Fowser “Standing Tall”….




Tradition is a minefield topic in the context of modern jazz. Its tractor beam pull on contemporary players invites the expenditure of ink and pixel pro and con like scarce others. Tenorist Ken Fowser appears to recognize that the best way to contend with the figurative elephant of precedence is feed it personalized peanuts, however thin the shells. Audition Standing Tall for jazz neophytes alongside Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage, Wayne Shorter’s Speak No Evil or any of another dozen vintage postbop albums and the listeners would likely end up erroneous in placing it as contemporaneous.

Some among the cognoscenti would find this subjective interchangeability of artistic outcomes opprobrious. Fowser and his compatriots seem rightly unperturbed, preferring instead to content themselves with the satisfying industry of creative expression regardless of whether the angel of innovation alights on their activities or not. Twelve pieces, all from Fowser’s pen, traffic in mellifluous small group jazz of the sort that came to popular prominence over a half century ago. Sharply spun heads as springboards for concise solos are the menu items on offer. If they all exude the enticing if familiar aromas of conventional counter fare so be it.

Trumpeter Josh Bruneau divides front line privileges with the leader and adopts a crisp, nimble attack parallel to purview of past heroes who answered to the surnames Hubbard and Morgan. Pianist Rick Germanson fronts the rhythm section with bassist Paul Gill and drummer Jason Tiemann. All five bring life to Fowser’s charts with enthusiasm and aplomb and the tunes are uniformly oriented to an egalitarian parity between individual and ensemble expression. “Filling in the Blanks” harkens directly to the assertive vamp-based vernacular of classic Billy Harper sans the spiritual heat while “Mode for Red” beats a bustling beeline for collective sweat-breaking catharsis.

Later pieces like “Patience and Optimism” and “Hanging On” emphasize the clean and cooperative fit between Fowser and Bruneau both in unison and apart alongside Germason’s easy talent for tasteful comping. Bruneau also seizes a couple opportunities to affix mute and blow with a pleasingly dampened tone. Due to the economy of compositions Gill and Tiemann don’t earn comparable time in the spotlight, but their group-minded contributions are equally essential to the results. An inverse of the “old bottles, new wine” adage, the music here is still worth knocking back at a leisurely pace.

Derek Taylor



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Audiophile Audition believes in “Standing Tall” by Ken Fowser

Ken Fowser – Standing Tall – Posi-Tone

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

—Jeff Krow

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Music & More Blog analyses Ken Fowser’s “Standing Tall”

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 –

Tim Niland – Music & More Blog

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More positive vibes on “Standing Tall” from Something Else! Reviews


Ken Fowser – Standing Tall – Something Else!

After making four solid, post-bop jazz records with vibes specialist Behn Gillece, tenor sax man Ken Fowser has stepped out on his own to make a solid, post-bop jazz record. Standing Tall, released on January 15, 2016 (Posi-Tone Records), puts Fowser in another small combo setting,…Fowser wrote all of the tunes, and they are faithfully in the style of classic Blue Note. That, combined with the usual Posi-Tone warm, unblemished production puts Standing Tall in a space shared by Wayne Shorter’s The Soothsayer or Horace Silver’s The Jody Grind. The old school chops are there, too.


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Midwest Record reviews Ken Fowser “Standing Tall”…







midwest record

If you’re any kind of a jazzbo, you know Fowser’s name but you’ll probably be surprised this is his first date as a leader. Swinging that sax like he was born holding it, Fowser isn’t letting grass grow under his feet as he delivers a pure, classic New York sound that can easily take you back to days you weren’t around for in the first place on a set of originals that aren’t filler. Engaging because he’s playing without affectation, he’s the real deal that knows from whence modern sax came from with Four Brothers as his starting point merging lessons learned with vision clear. Muscular, solid playing that makes this a winner throughout.

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Ken Fowser “Standing Tall” is on the WBGO radar…

Jazz is the most egalitarian of musical art forms. Roots, race, origin, education – all take a backseat to the ability to swing…and to express one’s own vision, who YOU are. That being said, New Jersey’s own saxophonist Ken Fowser does exactly that with his new Posi-Tone release, Standing Tall
Fowser has assembled four like-minded others, of different ages and geographic origins, to further elevate a dozen of his original compositions. Young Vermont trumpeter Josh Bruneau plays bright lines to combine with Fowser’s light, lyrical saxophone passages. Listening to them reminds one strongly of the rapport achieved between Kenny Dorham and Joe Henderson decades ago. Milwaukee pianist Rick Germanson, Baltimore bassist Paul Gill and Louisville’s Jason Tiemann on drums, contribute masterfully to the entire affair., contributing a firm base to the front-line flights. Germanson dances especially well on the keys, as he has done often recently on albums with Louis Hayes Cannonball Legacy Band and guitarist Russell Malone.
Every selection here is extremely listenable, especially the misty “Lucid Dreaming,” the swinging title track, and the lovely “Patience and Optimism” – which we could all use more of these days. Standing Tall should be of great help.
Brian Delp
Host, Jazz After Hours


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Another strong review for Ken Fowser “Standing Tall”…

Ken Fowser – Standing Tall

Ken Fowser "Standing Tall"


The twelve original compositions on saxophonist Ken Fowser‘s first album as a leader, “Standing Tall”, show his true mastership in swing, style, and structure. “Head Start” is a perfect album opener with an ebullient, and yet relaxing harmonic overtone that reminds me of some of the finest Impulse releases from the 60s.

The cool and grooving nature of the album continues with “Lucid Dreaming”, where Rick Germansonhas a nicely flowing solo on piano. Ken doubles with trumpeter Josh Bruneaumostly and really transports us into Smoke, New York’s Uptown Jazz mecca, where the intimacy of his playing is probably best represented. Things turn bluesy on “Filling In The Blanks” where Ken’s pretty fat and sonorous tenor sound really comes to the fore.

And with “Off The Path”, another engaging tune, Ken delivers a bouncy showcase for his full band, with Paul Gill on bass and Jason Tiemann on drums. Ken has worked with Jimmy CobbDavid HazeltineRay DrummondMickey Roker, to name a few and his sophisticated style in pieces like “The Fade Away” can certainly be attributed to his partners in crime – it has a modern-day Jazz Messengers feel to it. Highly enjoyable and masterfully executed. It’s a thrilling journey, really.

Ken continunes on the flowing, straight-ahead path with another aesthetically timeless piece, “Patience And Optimism”, the latter of which seems to be the continuing thread or motif for his strong playing and the cute compositional skills. My personal favorite for the moment is the title track with its effervescent playing and the deep immersion into some joyful musicianship. And then there is the somewhat brooding style of “Hanging On”, a more introspective kind of tune with a beautiful solo by Rick Germanson. He plays some Barry Harris /Tommy Flanagan-stlye, elegant yet bluesy and thick piano on “Brick’s Tune”, another delightful piece.


This is a very promising start into the new year. Ken is playing a couple of shows in New York: He is going to play at The Grange on January 10th (Trio), at Fat Cat on January 14th (Quintet), and the record release party will be at the 9th Note in Stamford, CT, on January 23rd.

–Matthias Kirsch

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Amazing review for Ken Fowser “Standing Tall”…..


A first listen to the young tenor saxophonist, Ken Fowser’s performance on Standing Tallleft me enormously impressed. A second and indeed a third hearing prompts, once more, enthusiasm for his shot-from-guns virtuosity, his leaping into the fray like one fearlessly possessed. No reservations arise when studying his compositions, which are youthful and ebullient, yet erudite and featuring wonderful twists and turns that far belie youthful bluster and experimentation. Mr. Fowser is much to my surprise, a serious composer with a serious knowledge of jazz and its pantheon of gods and other celestial beings. He has, therefore an exacting sense of history and although he sometimes forms a straight line from Benny Golson to the present he is quite his own man, with a singular voice and a surprisingly individual writer as well.

mindset2I am the first to celebrate such individuality for its extra edge and audacity and take no issue with his occasional impetuosity under studio conditions. His producer Marc Free does not seem to mind and seems to encourage these forays into youthfulness. So while you are left to wonder at his blaze of youthful power and aplomb in the inchoate whirl of compositions that stretch from Head Start to Somebody’s Got To Do it from this same set where the compositions break out into frequent moments of light and jazzy boperation, you are also left dumbstruck by a great maturity of imagination about this virtuosity of dreaming; a player with a classic poise that illuminates the work here rather than take away from the composer’s high-octane rhetoric and fervour.

Of course, none of this would matter if it were not for his doppelganger, Josh Bruneau on trumpet, Rick Germanson on piano, John Tiemann on drums and Paul Gill on bass. Their powerful contributions beg instant acknowledgement. Happier in forte and fortissimo than in pianissimo and piano Mr. Fowser is also hardly without his gentle tremulous end to long and loping lines. He is also relentless in the magical trellis of his melodic invention and the generation of harmony that he leads Mr. Bruneau, Mr. Germanson and Messer’s. Gill and Tiemann too. The result is a performance of great import as you may expect with Marc Free’s legendary touch on all of his (the producer’s) recordings.

More generally, heard as part of Mr. Fowser’s audience, many of these performances would carry you all the way. In the more relaxed all-acoustic circumstances of this recording no reservations about sound and content can occur. At his best Ken Fowser reminds us of the power and moist tone colours of his instrument fired to fame by any of the songs on this album. In the turbulent rhythms advancing us to the climax of this recording you can only marvel at Ken Fowser’s early achievement while looking forward to hearing him in similar circumstances again. Recorded sound is good, but that may be a function of listening to the music in mp3 format. I wonder what the full range of a recording’s fidelity would sound like coming from studio monitors.

Track List: 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.

Personnel: Ken Fowser: tenor saxophone; Josh Bruneau: trumpet; Rick Germanson: piano; Paul Gill: bass; John Tiemann: drums; Marc Free: producer.