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Gary Foster/Putter Smith: Perfect Circularity

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If, on listening to Perfect Circularity, you aren’t immediately reminded of I Concentrate on You, the 1974 duet recording uniting saxophonist Lee Konitz and bassist Red Mitchell, you’re forgiven. Yet those familiar with the crystalline beauty of that earlier session, or, indeed, many of the other intimate musical encounters that Konitz and Mitchell each favored, will find pleasurable echoes in this 2006 encounter between alto saxophonist and flutist Gary Foster and bassist Putter Smith.

In fact, Foster, a West Coast mainstay who has spent too much time during the past four decades sequestered in studio work, is an avowed Konitz acolyte who has even recorded with his main inspiration. Smith may be best known for his fruitful association with pianist Alan Broadbent. What radiates most clearly from Perfect Circularity, apart from the individual excellence and extraordinary responsiveness that the musical partners display, is the youthful vigor and explorative nature that these veteran players practically flaunt.

The ballad performances (“You Must Believe in Spring” and a flute-driven “Peacocks”) and bebop excursions (“Dream Stepper,” Konitz’s variation on “You Stepped Out of a Dream,” and Mitchell’s “Jam For Your Bread”) handsomely demonstrate Foster’s mellifluous tone and agile phrasing, as well as Smith’s room-filling sound and melodic imagination. The left field turns of Balinese composer Gugum Gumbira’s “Tonggeret,” Bill Dobbins’ adaptation of “Bach’s Siciliano” and Smith’s own “In Praise of Malcolm X,” featuring more of Foster’s supple and affecting flute work, add surprise and further dimension to an already felicitous encounter.