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Ralph Bowen: Keep the Change

Keep the Change (Criss Cross), Ralph Bowen’s fourth album as a leader (in addition to dozens as a sideman since the early 1980s), presents a consummate recital of hard bop/modal playing. Bowen remains a master of the tenor saxophone, his full, even tone and virtuoso technique ever impressive. Also impressive is his mastery of the vocabulary of John Coltrane, which he has used to great advantage in the creation of his own style. He selected the fine hard-bop trumpeter Ryan Kisor as a front-line partner, and rounding out the quintet are bassist Reuben Rogers, drummer Gregory Hutchinson, and pianist Orrin Evans. Except for the classic “In the Good Old Summertime” and two tunes from the musical Oliver!, the compositions are Bowen’s own and include his popular “Elevation.” Two incendiary tracks, “Thru Traffic” and “Keep the Change,” would challenge most anyone, but Bowen and his cohorts negotiate them with ease. By contrast, Bowen’s soprano is moving and lyrical on “For D.E.,” one of two tunes on which he picks up the small horn.

Originally Published