Last year we investigated a strong post-bop excursion by the potent, up-and-coming partnership of tenor saxophonist Ken Fowser and vibraphonist Bean Gillece. Little Echo (2010) swung like mad and put into sharp focus the tight rapport of Fowser and Gillece that is at the center of their post-bop achievements. Continuing what seems to becoming tradition for the duo, the rhythm section is entirely swapped out from the prior record, yet the momentum is maintained. For this outing, Donald Vega mans the piano, David Wong mans the bass and Willie Jones III sits behind the kit.
With a synergy that’s been developing since their high school days and solid chops by both, there isn’t a whole lot they can do to build on Little Echo, but they managed to with tighter, fresher melodies, most penned by Gillece but with a couple of contributions by Fowser. “Overcooked,” “Attachment” and “In The Twilight” all feature that impenetrable sense of swing that has become their calling card, but this time with more deeply soulful harmonies than before, and each possessing their own personalities; the record lacks that sameness feel that do in many a well performed mainstream jazz record.
“Spontaneity” is on another level harmonically with its varying tempos and spiritual feel, it’s downright Coltranian at times and suggests another path the pair could pursue with success if they were so inclined. “Come Around Again” is just the two in a gorgeous ballad setting, carrying on some simply stated, quiet musical conversation. They can bring the big guns, too, as they do on burners like “Back To Back,” and mid tempo elegance on numbers like “Low Ball” or the Brazilian inspired “Bongo.”
The Fowser/Gillece partnership continues to thrive on brisk grooves, Fowser’s big, ingratiating tone and Gillece’s colorful vibes. And now, with even better original tunes. DuoTone is a small but steady step in the progression of an already well developed team of jazz practitioners.
DuoTone released last August 23, on Posi-Tone Records.