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Richard Kamins Step Tempest review of Ralph Bowen “Power Play”….

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Power Play – Ralph Bowen (Posi-Tone Records) -Tenor saxophonist/composer came out of Canada in the mid-1980s to study in the United States and first came to critical notice as a member of the Blue Note labels hand-picked ensemble of “young lions” known as Out of the Blue. That group featured, among others, alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett, bassist Bob Hurst and drummer Ralph Peterson.  Bowen went on to work with pianists Michel Camilo, Hank Jones and Horace Silver as well as vocalist Shirley Scott and bassist Charles Fambrough.
This release, his 3rd for Posi-Tone, features the fine piano work of long-time friend Orrin Evans, bassist Kenny Davis and drummerDonald Edwards.  Evans’ tolling McCoy Tyner-like chords give great power to “Drumheller Valley” as does Edwards’ powerful drumming.  Bowen starts his solo (after a fine one from Evans) quietly but soon rides the roiling rhythm section to impressive heights.  “Two-Line Pass” has the speed of a hockey game in the flying bass lines of Davis – Bowen blazes a mighty trail through the piano chords, having fun interacting with the ensemble.  Evans takes his own joy ride with Edwards supplying the high-octane percussive push.
Bowen wisely plays “My One and Only Love” as the pretty ballad it is, staying close to the melody and chord changes for his handsome solo.  There is a sense of joy in his solo, a happiness that carries through the entire piece.
Other highlights include the handsome uptempo ballad “Bella Firenze” with an Evans solo that is relaxed and “swinging” at the same time and an energetic give-and-take featuring Bowen and Edwards (which ends on a fadeout.)  “Walleye Jigging” has a pleasing melody played over shifting tempos that opens to an understated piano solo before Bowen and Edwards have more strong interaction. Bowen’s lithe and gentle soprano saxophone is featured on the final track, “A Solar Romance.”  Take the time to listen to Davis’s long tones on the bass and Edward’s exemplary work on the cymbals as well as Evans’ impressionistic piano (somewhat reminiscent of another, older, Evans – Bill.)
Power Play” does have its share of powerful playing but there is also a goodly amount of dynamic variation from track to track.  What does not change throughout the program is the fine musicianship and the excellent interplay.  Some might call Bowen’s approach “modern hard bop” – call “honest good music” that’s well played and you won’t go wrong.  For more information, go to www.ralphbowen.comor www.posi-tone.com.
Here’s the opening track, “K.D’s Blues” courtesy of Posi-Tone Records and IODA Promonet:
K.D.’s Blues (mp3)


Written by editor

February 8th, 2011 at 9:20 pm

Posted in Reviews

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