Photo: Rick Farrell /Mojo Photography / Contributed Photo
It’s a time of new beginnings for Aztec Two-Step’s Rex Fowler, following the retirement of his folk-rock duo partner and friend, Neal Shulman. Fowler’s new band, Aztec Two-Step 2.0 (the name was Shulman’s idea), expands the ATS legacy with fresh harmonies and arrangements, including the electrifying guitar work of Fowler’s new wife, Dodie Pettit.
“It’s so amazing. We’re still on cloud nine,” Fowler says of his marriage to Pettit, an accomplished songwriter and recording artist. The two first met decades ago; she was a session player and singer on Aztec Two-Step’s 1980 “Times of Our Lives” album. They stayed in touch as friends. All these years later, they found love.
Fowler and Pettit are at the heart of Aztec Two-Step 2.0, which performs as a six-piece ensemble at Fairfield Theatre Company on Friday, May 31. “Our sextet show is a benefit concert for the Connecticut Dance School, a ballet school that Dodie is affiliated with,” Fowler said in a phone chat.
Pettit was a principal dancer with the American Repertory Dance Company. She was also an original cast member of “The Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway, and appeared in the Tony-winning musicals “CATS” and “Titanic.”
Fairfield Theatre Company, 70 Sanford St. Friday, May 31, 7:45 p.m. $38 general, members save $3. 203-259-1036
A Broadway tune featuring Pettit’s vocals may find its way into the FTC show, but the focus will be the music for which Aztec Two-Step is known, including some Shulman originals.
“Neal had been talking about retiring for a decade or more” and when his wife died in 2017 it was a turning point, Fowler said. “He was reflecting on what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. After 46-plus years of touring, you can’t fault the decision. It was a very traumatic loss; they had a beautiful marriage.”
Fowler said Pettit lost her husband, as well, years ago. He said he’s learned everyone deals with grief differently, and “because Dodie had gone through it, she was able to help me in understanding and communicating with Neal.” Shulman still enjoys his guitar and has filled in for Pettit on occasion, but now prefers to be home more, he said.
“I just can’t express what a blessing it is to continue to have opportunities to perform for people who have a real soul connection to the music. With Dodie in the band now, it’s magic for us. We travel together and have brought in other musicians . . . This was an opportunity for me to reconstruct the core of the band.”
Where there were two-part harmonies before, now there are three- and four-part harmonies. “We’ve added a lot of wonderful sounds and textures and it’s coming together nicely.” Aside from Fowler and Pettit, the FTC show will feature singer/musicians Steven “Muddy” Roues (upright bass, blues harmonica), Peter Hohmeister (drums, percussion), Chris Coogan (keyboards) and Joe Meo (sax, flute, clarinet).
The audience can expect a full, rich sound, introspective ballads, early favorites and tunes touching on subjects such as climate change and the disconnect in our government’s leadership, “songs that are important to me,” Fowler said. Also, “Dodie shows off her electric guitar goddess chops.”
[email protected]; Twitter: @LindaTKoonz