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Ken Fowser: Don't Look Down

Paul Rauch By

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Ken Fowser arrived in New York City in 2005 after being raised in the rhythmic legacy of the Philly sound. Playing with a deep harmonic sensibility, often sidestepping traditional harmony, Fowser has since created a sound that bears the pure physicality of the Philadelphia tradition refined by his experience in Gotham. His sound conjures audible images of George Coleman, as much as Philly legends Benny Golson and Jimmy Heath. His creative drive inspired by these pure jazz legacies has been in plain view in sessions at Small's and Smoke in Manhattan for the past decade.

On a national scale, many jazz fans know Fowser through his recordings in partnership with brilliant vibraphonist Ben Gillece that began with the post bop session Full View (Posi-Tone, 2009). He has released a well received solo effort as well, Standing Tall (Posi-Tone, 2016).

On his latest Posi-Tone release, Don't Look Down, Fowser takes us for a hard/post bop journey through 11 originals, leading a quintet of top tier New York players including up and coming trumpeter, Joshua Bruneau.

The opening piece, "Maker's Marc," personifies the session, and in large, the entire Posi-Tone mission. The label is committed to music that lives on the edge of the hard bop/post bop frontier, upheld by superb musicianship and creative composition. There is a consistency to the brand, sometimes maddenly so. However, the overwhelming majority of the time, the music supports the philosophy and the result has been a catalog of top notch recordings worthy of the attention of the elite jazz audience.

"Fall Back" is just a full-on hard bop romp, driven by the exquisite work of drummer Joe Strasser. His connection and interaction with bassist Paul Gill is evident from start to finish. Veteran pianist Rick Germanson creates the harmonic foundation of this piece, and the entire session, with elegance and ease. Trumpeter Bruneau always seems to be on the brink of something, leaving the audience a bit on the edge of their seats. His evolution over the next few years will be something to watch on the national scene.

The title track eases things down a bit, and perhaps best displays the working chemistry of this quintet. Fowser strays a bit from the common center in his solo, in a dulcet tonality. The melody line and associated harmony is rich and full of color, a trait that is reflected in all 11 compositions. There is a vivid sensibility that is engaging and leads to a pure, melodic approach to improvisation.

Fowser cites the great American poet, and beat generation icon, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, in the liner notes with his quote, "Think Long Thoughts in Short Sentences." There is a real correlation between Ferlinghetti's poetic vision and that of the art of improvisation. On Don't Look Down, Fowser offers the poetry of sound, the prose of the art of jazz.

Track Listing: Maker's Marc; Coming Up Shorter; You're Better Than That; Fall Back; Don't Look Down; Divided State; I'll Take It from Here; Queens; Top to Bottom; Inversions; From Six To Midnight.

Personnel: Ken Fowler: tenor saxophone; Josh Bruneau: trumpet; Rick Germanson: piano; Paul Gill: bass; Joe Strasser: drums.

Title: Don't Look Down | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Posi-Tone Records


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