Ralph_bowen-soul_proprietor_span3
January/February 2003

Ralph Bowen
Soul Proprietor
Criss Cross Jazz

On Soul Proprietor (Criss Cross), the sophomore effort by tenor saxophonist Ralph Bowen, the the saxophonist's sparring partner is trumpeter John Swana; he and the leader duel unaccompanied on a bristling chorus of the latter's "Rhythm" changes variation "Spikes." Both Bowen and Swana are impressive (and impressively underrated) players with lyrical as well as technical skills. They meet here with kindred spirits: guitarist Peter Bernstein, organist Sam Yahel and drummer Brian Blade. Together the ensemble mostly serves thoughtful standards ("Invitation," "My Ideal") and reconstitutes classics (a highlight is Bowen's Traneish "Meltdown"). Bowen extemporizes with the harmonic savvy and rhythmic surefootedness one would expect of a good post-Coltrane, post-Brecker tenor-but unlike many of his peers, he's rarely trite. So to call him a post-anything is actually doing him a disservice. In the same way, to call this an "organ-combo" record would be an incomplete truth; Bowen's crew does inhabit that house, but they've left all the windows open, light streaming in from all sides.

Originally published in January/February 2003
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