Hard to believe Ralph Bowen has been at this for roughly twenty five years and continues to fly just under the radar of some folks. First gaining attention as part of the new young lions of jazz, Bowen may be the last man standing when it comes to consistency of performance as well as a gifted composer. Unlike so many of his contemporaries from the mid 1980's that have either faded into musical obscurity or spend more time creating cyber fire fights on social media then they do practising their craft - Bowen can play! Power Play is a most impressive release with that Blue Note meets Impulse quality that very few labels and artists can seem to match as well as Bown and Posi-Tone. Consistency.
Bowen draws upon one of the harmonic heavyweights in pianist Orrin Evans to mix things up just a touch on this his third release for the label. Eight originals on this nine track release with the lone cover being an elegant and slightly revamped "My One And Only Love." Bowen's impressive lyrical ability allows a subtle blues based influence to creep in and out of the tune at his leisure. Evans does a masterful job at the piano and his accompaniment of Bowen is as close to one singular instrumental voice from two player as you can get. "K.D.'s Blues" opens the release with the intensity of odd metered swing but the groove is unmistakable despite soloing in two different directions. Evans maintains an infectious blues feel while Bowen does more of a sonic exploratory. As hard charging as they come Ralph Bowen can hold his own and then some on any bandstand on any given night. "Solar Romance" is another Bowen original that finds this formidable 4tet dialing it down for a gorgeous ballad again showcasing the depth and character of Bowen's artistry. Kenny Davis is a first call bassist who along with drummer Edwards and the understated groove and finesse necessary to fill in the necessary gaps. Not musical filler but the glue that binds this stellar 4tet together.
A release of power, subtlety and at times lyrical poetry find Power Play as one of the best you may have missed from 2011. Normally I don't give out stars for older releases but this is a five star effort that is well worth checking out! Perhaps the best tenor play some may have never heard of so get acquainted with one of the very best in Ralph Bowen!
Tracks: K.D.'s Blues; Drumheller Valley; Two-Line Pass; My One And Only Love; The Good Shepherd; Bella Firenze; Jessica; Walleye Jigging; A Solar Romance.
Personnel: Ralph Bowen: saxophones; Orrin Evans: piano; Kenny Davis: bass; Donald Edwards: drums.