A fiery performance before a packed house at the Generations Project “Battle of the Combos" at Yoshi’s San Francisco on Thursday night, May 7, propelled the Ken Fowser/Behn Gillece Quintet to victory in the second annual Generations International Competition for Emerging Combos, sponsored by the International Center for the Arts (ICA) at San Francisco State University. With its competition victory, the Fowser/Gillece Quintet earned a year-long fellowship at SF State, including mentoring by the veteran all-stars of the Generations Band, including Jimmy Cobb, Ray Drummond and Eric Alexander. Mentors and young musicians will convene several times during the coming year, with the Fellowship winners receiving invaluable insights on performing and the dynamics of band interaction and advice about the music industry.
Fowser/Gillece Quintet wins on musicianship and tight ensemble interplay
It was two New York City-based bands squaring off, as the Fowser/Gillece group, led by tenor saxophonist Ken Fowser and vibraphonist Behn Gillece, won the competition over the Bruce Harris Quintet. The Fowser/Gillece Quintet’s winning performance opened with “Jeremy’s Other Blues," a sly, energetic number by group pianist Jeremy Manasia. Gillece’s ringing vibes work and Fowser’s warm, muscular style took hold immediately, and Manasia stormed the castle with a spry, multi-faceted solo, springing nimbly among cheerful musical ideas. Another highlight was “The Hutch," Gillece’s tribute to vibes great Bobby Hutcherson. But while the quality of the playing by these three, as well as bassist Adam Cote and drummer Jason Brown, was high, it was the empathetic interplay among the musicians that made the performance shine. It’s not surprising that this quintet had substantial team chemistry. They’ve been together long enough to have recorded a fine CD, Full View.