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Power Play by Ralph Bowen

Power Play is a disc of hard-driving, intense, full-throttle, straight-ahead jazz. It's not that saxophonist Ralph Bowen isn't capable of subdued tender moments—such moments are certainly present throughout this disc—, it's just that the renowned veteran of the East Coast scene, in both his playing and composing, happily leans to the aggressive side of modern, progressive jazz. From his days in the 1980s with young-lion super group Out of The Blue, to his more recent stints with pianists Horace Silver and Michel Camilo, Bowen has received much praise from fans and critics as an artist of unwavering conviction.

The disc's opening track, "K.D.'s Blues," sets the tone of the session with a brisk, swinging tempo, memorable theme, and go-for-broke solos by Bowen and pianist Orrin Evans. Evans takes charge of the dark and funky "Drumheller Valley" with lively support from bassist Kenny Davis and drummer Donald Edwards. The tireless rhythm section provides rock-solid support for Bowen's inspired Coltrane-meets-Michael Brecker approach on the up-tempo "Two-Line Pass." After an endearing but predictable version "My One and Only Love," the quartet displays its most intuitive, collective risk-taking on the burner "The Good Sheppard" and the buoyant "Bella Firenze." Here, Bowen displays impeccable technique and flowing lyricism.

After a barrage of tenor saxophone, Bowen's primary instrument of choice, the soprano is taken up to handle the disc's two ballads "Jessica" and "A Solar Romance," revealing a meditative, pensive aesthetic. This softer side manages to hang on to the intensity of previous tracks, bringing a fitting close to an all around stunning release.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Ralph Bowen
  • CD Title: Power Play
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2011
  • Record Label: Posi-Tone
  • Rating: Four Stars
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