Duo albums occasionally present a most vulnerable side of jazz artists. In the case of woodwind specialist Gary Foster and veteran bassist Putter Smith, the opportunity is much more of a challenge than a threat. Foster, who has graced many jazz records over several decades, has rarely recorded under his own leadership, with four releases in the 1960s for the Revelation label and one for Concord in 1991. Foster's work was notable in the big bands of Toshiko Akiyoshi, Clare Fischer and the Marty Paich Dek-tette in the 1960s and 1970s
Smith is a West Coast landmark who has also worked with Thelonious Monk, Lee Konitz and Alan Broadbent. On alto, the lyrical Foster is a protégé of Konitz, appearing on a number of West Coast recordings including Bobby Shew, Gary Foster and Friends Play The Music of Reed Kotler (Torii, 2002).
One might expect a low-key approach for these two but, quite the opposite, Foster on alto leaps into action on the Sonny Redd opener, "Teef," followed by a strong solo from Smith. Jimmy Rowles' "The Peacocks" follows with Foster picking up the flute, and is strongly delivered with the instrument's tone showing great vibrato and resonance. For Konitz's "Dream Stepper," Foster offers a long quote from "You Stepped Out of A Dream." Bill Dobbins' adaptation of Bach's "Bach Siciliano" again presents Foster on flute, vividly delivering its classical theme.
Smith begins several tracks by plucking the melody in tandem with Foster's sax, and it is a charming approach. Michel Legrand's "You Must Believe in Spring" opens with a long arco statement from Smith, who then passes off to Foster's alto for this familiar jazz standard.
The latter half of the album is filled with familiar jazz tunes like Sonny Rollins' "Oleo," Charlie Parker's "Relaxin' at Camarillo" and the Mercer/Schertzinger standard "I Remember You," all allowing Foster's fluent and lyrical alto style and Smith's resonant bass to shine.
The virtuosity shared by Smith and Foster makes Perfect Circularity a highly enjoyable album.
Personnel: Gary Foster: woodwinds; Putter Smith: bass.