Throughout Morning Light,Ken Fowser's latest Posi-Tone Records release, he poses a welcome alternative to the fast-lane excesses of some of his peers on the tenor saxophone. The first thing that sets him apart is a medium-weight tone which doesn't crave attention or take up too much room. His sound sets an example to the rest of the band and discourages an overly aggressive, no-holds-barred approach to the music as a whole. Fowser's eleven serviceable, original compositions spring from recognizable mainstream templates, yet stand on their own merits.
Fowser has evolved to the point where, more often than not, he sounds genuinely spontaneous, as opposed to offering a mélange of segments assiduously worked out in a practice room. There is no trace of a "more notes the better" mentality. By and large, Fowser's improvisations breathe easily and invite the listener to savor smart, savvy development. Instead of anxiously forging ahead and artificially ratcheting up the tension, he often pauses and, in just a note or two, craftily changes course.
Some of Fowser's most distinguished work occurs amidst the Latin oriented grooves of "This That & And The Other Thing," "That Was Then," and "Without Saying," where his "less is more" approach allows the peppery rhythms to shine through. The title track establishes his credibility as a thoughtful ballad player who never strays very far from the primary theme.
Fowser is surrounded by a band of peers who are all on the same page. Trumpeter/flugelhornist Josh Bruneau is a brash stylist and an ideal foil for the leader. His startling, incisive turn on "This That & The Other Thing" raises the temperature of the music by several degrees. Tadataka Unno's comping echoes Bruneau's lines during the medium-to-up tempo swinger "Moving Forward," and the pianist's consistently invigorating improvisations make him the most distinctive soloist on the record. Vince Dupont's fierce bass lines constantly propel the music. Although he is placed a bit low in the mix, veteran drummer Joe Strasser plays well with Dupont and offers a variety of accents and fills that don't get in anyone's way.
In the end, it is a tossup between Fowser's impressive progress as a soloist and a stellar ensemble as to the essential factor that makes Morning Light a stimulating recording.
Moving Forward; Three For Leathers; In The Blue; Seventy Sixers; This That & The Other Thing; Morning Light; That
Was Then; The Instigator; Without Saying; Firefly; Vitamin E.