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Slightly Askew by Chris Bowden

Slightly Askew has been a long time coming but is well worth the wait. Chris Bowden's music has matured and now travels beyond the earlier musical territorial constraints of its predecessor Time Capsule.

There are only four tracks and each is huge both in length and breadth of musical experience. Sub-species of Hip Hop, Classical and Latin American dance through your ears but the album's looping and boundless jazz origins are never far from the surface. The overall production is something that pushes the musical frontiers. It is not difficult to tell that Slightly Askew runs from the same stable as the Cinematic Orchestra, Ninja Tunes' other recent prodigy. But in my opinion, Bowden's music will lead the field, being far more excitingly and intelligently fused.

The music is not always beautiful but it is compulsively brilliant. Very few musicians (outside of Classical Composers) can successfully embrace this range of emotional diversity, from serenity to angry chaos and who else can musically transpose the experience of being unhinged? Each piece is crafted individually yet a constituent of an accomplished tapestry.

The album is ever evolving and will reward its audience with new pleasures at each listening. Some melody-seekers may find the trawl too heavy and fall by the wayside during the first song. Shame on them! The experience can only be fully appreciated by traveling the full journey, which is deliciously sweet at its centre.

Bowden has used individually competent musicians and magnanimously given them room to maneuver. The flute is hauntingly unforgettable and the dream-sequence vocals on my favorite track, Crockers and Killers, are delightful (although some of the higher notes lack the desired conviction). The name Chris Bowden is, of course, well known especially in jazz circles. He is a consummate and stridently brilliant saxophonist and refreshingly he has not understated his own skill on this album.

However, it is as composer, arranger, constructor and re-constructor that he blows your mind Slightly Askew. I know no other who is successfully courageous in fusing the discordant and irreconcilable into orchestral plasma. Paradoxically it is a sign of the arranger's confidence and self-control that he can respectfully permit such artistic freedom from his musicians. I suspect that Bowden instinctively knows the creative portent of his production. This album will be regarded as a watershed but believe me, there is nothing watery or closeted about it.

I can't wait to hear this live.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Chris Bowden
  • CD Title: Slightly Askew
  • Genre: Cool Jazz
  • Year Released: 2002
  • Record Label: Zen
  • Musicians: Chris Bowden, alto saxophone, composer, leader. Various guest artists including Jim Watson on piano/keyboards, Vicky Matthews on cello, Liz Parks on vocal, Neil Yates on trumpet, Tom Gordon on drums, Andy Hamill on double bass, among others.
  • Rating: Five Stars
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