Saturday, May 3, 2014

Ralph Bowen Standard Deviation Posi-Tone 2014

 
Ralph Bowen goes slightly left of center while delivering his finest effort in Standard Deviation.
 
Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com
 
Standard Deviation is the fifth release on the incredibly consistent Posi-Tone label. The irony here being that Bowen has always been a model of consistency, an artist as technically proficient as he is artistically gifted. Bowen's other four releases have been met with critical acclaim however there was a certain air of predictability that surrounded each and not in a bad way. The previous Posi-Tone efforts were the epitome of the classic straight ahead sound with a sizzling swing and arrangements that were zen like in approach. Nothing was wasted...
 
Standard Deviation has Bowen playing compositions that are certainly a vital part of his harmonic wheelhouse but his arrangements of tunes such as "Isn't It Romantic" and "Dream Dancing" show an amazing ability to manipulate a melody without mangling the original but still managing to move the composition to a new place. The Richard Rogers standard "Isn't It Romantic" is magically reintroduced as a spritely syncopated odd metered gem with an organic heart beat and a color palette as vivid as the cover art. Pianist Bill O'Connell handles the arrangement on "Yesterday" and seems to be singing from the same lyrical hymnal as Bowen with flowing harmonics and a percussive onslaught that puts the paddles to yet another standard that has been beat to death over the past few decades. Bowen is back with the minor key and odd metered Cole Porter number "Dream Dancing." Stellar...
 
The exponential growth of Ralph Bowen is staggering. Lyrical focused, harmonically intense and with arrangement skills that will help reinvent the Great American Songbook. Standard Deviation continues to reinforce my feeling that Posi-Tone boasts the finest stable of tenor players of any label in North America. Ralph Bowen simply crushes this offering. The all star band in comprised of the previously mentioned Bill O'Connell on piano, Kenny Davis on bass and Donald Edwards on drums, as formidable a 4tet as one could find. Virtually perfect on every level.
Tracks: Isn't It Romantic; No Moon At All; Yesterdays; You Don't Know What Love Is; You Stepped Out Of A Dream; Spring Is Here; Dream Dancing; By Myself.