Saturday, May 19, 2012

Ralph Bowen Dedicated Posi-Tone 2009

I enjoy examining the output and development of a label as much as an artist so on occasion I will go "Back To The Future" as I have done with this exceptional 2009 release from Ralph Bowen. A highly personal release as the passing of a close friend and mentor left Bowen feeling the need for a musical thank you note or acknowledgement to those that have made a lasting impression on his life both personally if not professionally. An all-star lineup of Sean Jones, Adam Rogers, John Patitucci and Antonio Sanchez serve as the musical backdrop to one of Bowen's finest releases to date. Posi-Tone founder Marc Free was a driving force behind this release and should certainly be commended for his contribution not just to Bowen but to literally jazz education in general.

While personal in nature, Bowen takes the somewhat conceptual road less traveled with the concept of building the quintet around guitarist Adam Rogers. Rehearsals lasted two weeks and so did the mixing of Dedicated which while somewhat unusual for an all-star recording it is their collective dedication that pays off big time with the finished product. Some still ask who does Ralph Bowen sound like? Simple...Ralph Bowen. Musical frames of reference can be inherently unfair but to give you a rough idea take the best of Michael Brecker and Dexter Gordon then dial back the intensity to a subtle nuance and then you have something close to Ralph Bowen. Welcome to the land of rhythm and groove.

"Pat" is dedicated to Pat Labarbera. A slightly more free form approach that borders on the melancholy. Adam Rogers work on guitar is a musical synergy that is a perfect fit with the energy and lyrical development of Bowen. Modern in style but with an old school improvisational bent "Pat" is that captivating sonic exploratory that has the potential to draw the listener in for a sonic journey of their choosing. "Mr. Bebop" is for the great David Baker and the addition of Sean Jones on trumpet adds texture and a nice cerebral depth of field. Jones takes on counterpoint throughout the head and then solos at the most opportune time. Rogers brilliant comping supports Bowen's tenor riffs while John Patitucci and Antonio Sanchez are locked and loaded for a rhythm section that is second to none. "E.R." is a solo piece for Eugene Rousseay that allows Bowen the Sonny Rollins type freedom to go where ever he allows the melody to take him. Far from free jazz but Bowen excels at playing outside of the box. A somewhat introspective and minimalistic approach to the art of jazz and a fitting conclusion to a stellar release for 2009.

Tracks: Canary Drums; Pat; Qaiyam; Mr. Bebop; Prof.; E.R.

Personnel: Ralph Bowen tenor saxophone; Sean Jones: trumpet; Adam Rogers: guitar; John Patitucci: bass; Antonio Sanchez: drums.