Gary Foster

Perfect Circularity

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Recordings as intimate the Gary Foster/Putter Smith duet album Perfect Circularity can be risky business; the fewer instruments there are on a jazz recording, the more one's weaknesses and shortcomings are likely to stand out. But the other side of the coin is that if the musicians are truly skillful, an intimate setting can make the musicians' strengths really stand out -- and thankfully, the latter is what happens on Perfect Circularity. This 2006 date, which was recorded a few weeks before Foster's 70th birthday, finds alto saxophonist/flutist Foster and acoustic bassist Smith performing a series of duets without any drums, guitar or piano, leaving them without any place to hide. Not that either of them need to hide anything; both are well-seasoned veterans, and their rapport is strong on duet performances of familiar standards like Charlie Parker's "Relaxin' at Camarillo," Sonny Rollins' "Oleo," Jimmy Rowles' "The Peacocks," and Johnny Mercer's "I Remember You." Given how exposed and vulnerable the duo format leaves Foster and Smith, it would have been somewhat understandable if they had opted to play it safe by embracing nothing but overdone warhorses. However, they also tackle Red Mitchell's "Jam for Your Bread," Lee Konitz' "Dream Stepper," and Sonny Red's "Teef," none of which fall into the warhorse category. One of the enjoyable things about Perfect Circularity is hearing Foster playing alto some of the time and flute some of the time; he gets his emotional points across well on both instruments and is a skillful flutist even though he is best known for his sax playing. A fair amount of chances are taken on Perfect Circularity, and they pay off nicely for Foster and Smith.

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