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Ralph Bowen: Due Reverence

Mark F. Turner By

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Thanks to an American Idol culture and any number of other circumstances, the jazz universe is filled with extremely bright, if lesser known stars, who are just as talented as their more noted constellations. Such is the case with saxophonist Ralph Bowen, a truly bad-ass player who has appeared on over 60 recordings as a sideman and leader. Due Reverence, his second release on Posi-Tone, is prime example of his continued voice as a musician and leader.

The company that Bowen keeps is indicative of his band members here, all of whom recorded on his 2009 Posi-Tone release, Dedicated. Guitarist Adam Rogers, bassist John Patitucci), drummer Antonio Sanchez and trumpeter Sean Jones are all remarkable and respected leaders with recordings and résumés at the vanguard of the current music scene.

Following the sentiments of his previous release, Due Reverence continues the saxophonist's dedications to other musicians who have been mentors and influential throughout his career. Dedicated to guitarist Ted Dunbar, "Less Is More" begins the set with Rogers' austere classical guitar intro, before tentatively rising into a steady tempo as the group settles into the flow, with Bowen's tenor singing like John Coltrane and Charlie Parker in a strong modal rhythm.

"This One's For Bob" (for saxophonist Bob Mintzer), soars into the stratosphere, with Patitucci and Sanchez's percolating rhythm catapulting circuitous lines from Bowen that exhibit his remarkable control and endurance, while Rogers answers with fluidity of depth and tone, echoing Wes Montgomery but forging new frontiers in the vein of Kurt Rosenwinkel.

Bowen and the band show that swing is still an idiom of beauty and precision on tunes such as "Phil-osophy," where Sanchez trades fire-for-fire with the other soloists. Jones makes an appearance on the spicy "Mr. Scott," delivering his singular bright tone and cutting soulfulness. The band cools it on "Points Encountered," but the heat still simmers due to everyone's contributions, including Patitucci's incisive electric bass playing.

It can be debated until the "Saints Come Marching In" whether certain musicians deserve more or less recognition. But when it's all said and done—as well as performed and listened to—it's about the music. Due Reverence stands on its own merits; a fine example of Bowen and his band's clear abilities.

Track Listing: Less Is More; This One's For Bob; Phil-osophy; Mr. Scott; Points Encountered.

Personnel: Ralph Bowen: tenor saxophone; Adam Rogers: guitar; John Patitucci: bass; Antonio Sanchez: drums; Sean Jones: trumpet (4).

Title: Due Reverence | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Posi-Tone Records

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