Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...


Kris Bowers: A Deeper Look into Heroes + Misfits

K. Shackelford By

Sign in to view read count
Kris Bowers is a pristine example of what the term prodigy embodies. In 2011, at the tender age of 22, he became the winner of the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition. Bowers also received an astute musical education at Julliard School of Music in New York—receiving a Bachelor's degree and Master's degree in Film Scoring and Jazz Performance before reaching the age of 25. Yet Bowers' style is not limited to traditional jazz. It is also shaped by the diverse musical genres he listened to on the radio as a kid, which makes his sound intriguing. He can interpret the latest Pop, R&B and Hip-Hop hits creating a sonically sophisticated mise en scène for listeners.

Earlier this year, Kris Bowers released his debut album Heroes + Misfits on Concord Jazz. The album features an auteurish and innovative mix of young musicians on today's jazz scene such as saxophonist/vocoderist/keyboardist Casey Benjamin, vocalist José James, drummer Jamire Williams, guitarist Adam Agati and other young jazz voices. Heroes + Misfits presents Bowers' compositions which exhibit exquisite and careful blending of sounds and color—provoked by an amalgam of issues surrounding life, love, and politics.

Like many jazz greats such as Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, Bowers is quite intentional about understanding his generation and creating music that is relevant. The title Heroes + Misfits was inspired by his studies on the generational theory of William Strauss and Neil Howe critically acclaimed books, Generations and The Fourth Turning. The Strauss and Howe theory argues four generation types that have a cyclical feature, and expounds upon the popular term "Millennials." Bowers intentionally pulled the concepts of "Heroes" and "Misfits" from his stimulating engagement with Strauss and Howe's theory.

Moreover, many would agree that Bowers is a rising star in the world of film and music composition. His resume includes scoring Chiemi Karasawa's Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (featuring Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey), and Sandy McLeod's Seeds of Time. Exciting upcoming projects include working with more Hip- Hop artists such as Q-Tip (he worked on Kanye West and Jay Z's Watch The Throne), saxophonist Kenneth Whalum III and scoring a film about NBA Basketball star Kobe Bryant.

All About Jazz: Your album seems to be birthed not only out of your vast musical repertoire but also illuminates a personal cultural critique, particularly, as a result of your engagement with William Strauss and Neil Howe's 1997 book, The Fourth Turning? Tell us about how you discovered Strauss and Howe and how their work is related to the title Heroes + Misfits.

Kris Bowers: A lot of times, I'll be curious about something and I'll find myself going down the Google search "rabbit hole." Particularly, I was curious about how generations get their names. For example, why are we the "Millennial" generation or why is there one called Generation X? I was interested in how these names were created and wondered if there were any other names for my generation besides the "Millennials." In my research, I stumbled upon the Strauss and Howe theory.

First of all, the cyclical thing is interesting. According to the Strauss-Howe theory, certain aspects of culture, like the economy and politics, are all cyclical and these factors affect the growth and maturation of each generation. So the Strauss-Howe theory also presented that my generation was the 'Hero' generation. Thus, I thought it was very fitting that at the same time I was doing this research, Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street was happening. In addition, people were protesting about Trayvon Martin. I felt like my generation, for the first time in a while, was specifically expressing the power of their "voice" like young people during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960's, or other important movements after that. So it was very fitting.

AAJ: I read in one place that you wanted your generation to understand the unlimited possibilities that can emerge from their life, their voice. I say this because you don't place limits on yourself. Everybody talks about how you are able to play anything. One person even said that your knowledge of music is "encyclopedic." Your music is also ensconced with a psycho-social consciousness that engages life, love and politics. So at what particular point did you say that I'm not going to be constrained by just one genre of music? How has that benefitted you?

KB: On some level, I've always felt that way. I had a period in high school where I was one of those "traditionalist" as far as jazz is concerned. I felt like if it didn't "swing" it wasn't jazz. I definitely thought that way for a period in high school but then I had to remind myself that we are in the 21st century. I grew up listening to a lot of diverse musical styles, just as much or arguably more than jazz. I felt it was important to be true to that reality and to not feel like I was letting jazz and the genre down by being open to other styles of music. When I got to college, I started playing with other musicians who played different genres of music and I started having fun with other styles, developing a respect for them. I feel like a lot of jazz musicians don't have respect for more contemporary stuff. They think it's easier to play. Yet, once I realized these styles were not easier and that each has its own difficulties—I began to see that being open to other music styles can only help you. Moreover, they can help each other the more you get good at them.


Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read A Conversation with Music Author Alan Light Interviews
A Conversation with Music Author Alan Light
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: December 16, 2018
Read Michael League: Snarky Puppy's Jazz-Schooled, Grassroots Visionary Interviews
Michael League: Snarky Puppy's Jazz-Schooled,...
by Mike Jacobs
Published: December 10, 2018
Read Conor Murray & Micheal Murray: Putting Falcarragh On The Jazz Map Interviews
Conor Murray & Micheal Murray: Putting Falcarragh On...
by Ian Patterson
Published: November 29, 2018
Read Pete McCann: Mild-Mannered Superhero Guitarist Interviews
Pete McCann: Mild-Mannered Superhero Guitarist
by Mark Corroto
Published: November 28, 2018
Read Kris Funn: Bass Player, Story Teller Interviews
Kris Funn: Bass Player, Story Teller
by R.J. DeLuke
Published: November 27, 2018
Read Phillip Johnston: Back From Down Under Interviews
Phillip Johnston: Back From Down Under
by Ken Dryden
Published: November 27, 2018
Read "Anwar Robinson: From American Idol To United Palace" Interviews Anwar Robinson: From American Idol To United Palace
by Suzanne Lorge
Published: November 25, 2018
Read "Chad Taylor: Myths and Music Education" Interviews Chad Taylor: Myths and Music Education
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: April 9, 2018
Read "Ben Wolfe: The Freedom to Create" Interviews Ben Wolfe: The Freedom to Create
by Stephen A. Smith
Published: September 1, 2018
Read "Monika Herzig: A Portrait of a Hero" Interviews Monika Herzig: A Portrait of a Hero
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: July 3, 2018
Read "Hal Willner's Rock 'n' Rota" Interviews Hal Willner's Rock 'n' Rota
by Ludovico Granvassu
Published: July 26, 2018
Read "Grace Kelly: Free From Boundaries" Interviews Grace Kelly: Free From Boundaries
by Doug Hall
Published: January 27, 2018