Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Ralph Bowen - Power Play (Posi-Tone, 2011)

Saxophonist Ralph Bowen has carved out a fine niche for himself on the mainstream jazz scene as an educator at Rutgers University, and as a recording artist (BTW, back when the Library where I work had money I actually booked him for a concert!) This is a fine mainstream jazz hard-bop recording where Bowen is performing with Orrin Evans on piano, Kenny Davis on bass and Donald Edwards on drums. They open the album with “K.D.’s Blues” which has a nice mid-tempo in the classical jazz mode. The song has swinging fast elastic bass and piano keep the proceedings moving briskly. Pianist Evans gives a vaguely classical opening to “Drumheller Valley” before strong insistent saxophone joins the fray. But this track is really a feature for Evans and he responds admirably. Strong and swinging saxophone builds to a fast and complex solo on “Two-Line Pass” with insistent percussive support from piano and drums. ‘My One And Only Love” is taken at a lush ballad tempo, with Bowen laying back and caressing the melody in a nice musical statement that is patiently stated and never rushed. “The Good Shepherd” was the highlight of the album for me with strong and muscular piano recalling McCoy Tyner during his tenure with John Coltrane or his great early 1970’s albums for Milestone. Bowen responds with vivacious saxophone over strong deep bass and inspired drumming. After that headlong rush, the band slows things back down for “Bella Firenze” taken at a swinging medium pace. Bowen builds things slowly to a complex solo anchored in bebop constructed architecturally. Meat and potatoes mainstream jazz is the order of the day here, and mainstream jazz fans should be quite satisfied by this offering. Power Play - amazon.com

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