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Ralph Bowen, "Ralph Bowen"
From Midwest Record

Wow, sets like this make you think this is how it must have been back in the glory days when labels like Prestige were flying by the seat of their pants and hitting it out of the park on the fly. The sax man is so on point here delighting us with smoking, straight ahead jazz that he'll have your head spinning with the good vibes for all. Tasty stuff that disregards everything but high octane, quality playing, this is a must for the jazzbo in you that you probably didn't even know existed. The rest of us are already in groovesville. Well done.


Ralph Bowen, Self-titled
Ralph Bowen, "Ralph Bowen"
by Derek Taylor
August 8, 2017
From Dusted Magazine

What to make of tenorist Ralph Bowen's embrace of minimalism for the packaging of his latest untitled effort for Positone, or is indeed Ralph Bowen the actual title? It's a query that goes unanswered on the album, a batch of seven originals and three tunes from other composers, six of the former of which unify under the umbrella of a suite structure and indulge through their component titles in one of this writer's favorite preoccupations, alliteration. A cloud of hand-sketched notes and a candid black & white pic of the artist, reed planted expectantly in embouchure are the only other clues to Bowen's intent outside of the music.

The covers provide a clear indication of Bowen's stylistic preferences for those unfamiliar with his substantial body of work as a leader and sideman. Dave Liebman's "Picadilly Lily" and McCoy Tyner's "Search for Peace" are each artifacts from the post-Coltrane 1970s and both get faithful renderings by the quartet under Bowen's helm. Bassist Kenny Davis contributes "Aye", a delicate ballad that gives pianist

With the rhythm bases cogently covered, Bowen is free to blow at will with a warm and expressive phrasing.
Jim Ridl room to shine alongside the leader. Drummer Cliff Almond's cymbal work here and elsewhere is the epitome of poise and taste. With the rhythm bases cogently covered, Bowen is free to blow at will with a warm and expressive phrasing.

Three-quarters of the album gives over to the aforementioned Phylogeny Suite, a series of six interlocking compositions pairing fauna with alliterative descriptors. Linking the music to its titular referents swiftly becomes something of subjective cul de sac and the pieces work just as well apart, a lesson also intimated in the nominally distinctive album packaging. "A Rookery of Ravens", for instance, balances humor and propulsive rhythm and finds each of the players synching smoothly into a well-oiled whole. Same goes for "A Flamboyance of Flamingos", which takes flight on another complementary unison theme with Ridl plugging in a Fender Rhodes. Bowen may not give much in the way of background or annotation, but the music works just fine without it.


Ralph Bowen, Self-titled
Ralph Bowen, "Ralph Bowen"
by Alain Drouot
From Downbeat
☆☆☆½

The centerpiece of this excellent self-titled disc is The Phylogeny Suite, a six-part composition that brings out the most adventurous and progressive traits in Bowen as a musician and composer. It also displays two different sides of this most accomplished saxophonist. He can definitely pass for a stylist, with his delightful legato and buttery tone. But he's also capable of letting loose. Bowen has found in pianist Jim Ridl an ideal partner who can support him in any direction. Moreover, Ridl's inspired and multifaceted piano solo over an insistent bass vamp on "A Rookery Of Ravens" is the album's show-stopper.

Bowen has found in pianist Jim Ridl an ideal partner who can support him in any direction. .
The rest of the rhythm section is not undeserving, as it successfully combines the experience of veteran Kenny Davis on bass with the youthfulness of Cliff Almond on drums. It must be said that some pieces are so strong that others pale in comparison. Davis' "Aye" is a lovely ballad, and Bowen's "Cache Cache" is a typical yet energetic post-bop number, but they don't measure up to the best moments of the suite—particularly "A Leap Of Leopards," featuring Davis and Almond bending their notes and a fiery exchange between Bowen and the drummer.


Ralph Bowen, Self-titled
Ralph Bowen, "A Pandemonium of Parrots"
by Nate Chinen
From WBGO

Saxophonist Ralph Bowen has been an inspired workhorse in the swinging jazz mainstream for decades, and he's not the type of musician who needs a guiding concept to move things forward. His self-titled new album, however, just out on Posi-Tone, does feature an evocative centerpiece: "The Phylogeny Suite," whose six movements are named for various terms of animal groupings. So for instance, we have "A Rookery of Ravens" and "A Flamboyance of Flamingos." This track is called "A Pandemonium of Parrots," and while it doesn't attempt to literalize the cacophony, it does have a bright, chattering quality that suits its inspiration. Bowen takes the lead commandingly, but he has stalwart support from his rhythm section: bassist Kenny Davis, drummer Cliff Almond, and pianist Jim Ridl, whose solo is a keeper.


Ralph Bowen, Standard Deviations
May 6, 2014
by S. Victor Aaron
Review of "Standard Deviation"

Tenor saxophone ace Ralph Bowen had been such a non-stop record-making machine since he signed up with Posi-Tone Records around 2009, but he spent 2013 catching his breath, so to speak. And now, he returns with his fifth release for the label, Standard Deviation (out May 13).

Returning to the usual acoustic quartet format following his organ jazz encounter with Jared Gold (Total Eclipse, 2012), Bowen tears through a set of standards composed by all the usual suspects — Rodgers, Kern and Porter — with verve and heaping helpings of swing. Helping him out are Bill O'Connell (piano), Kenny Davis (bass) and Donald Edwards (drums).

In what might sound like a contradiction of the album's title, Bowen's take on these songs don't deviate too far from the standard treatment of them, and certainly these timeless melodies aren't diluted. But he does lots of little things of light a fire under them. "Spring Is Here" has an intro that feels like the end of winter transitioning into spring. "Yesterdays" is turned into a modern jazz delight replete with shifting tempos (and Bowen puts on a sax clinic). Even the ballad "You Don't Know What Love Is" is barely contained as such, because Edwards livens it up with fills and bombs. After a scorching or soulful Bowen solo, O'Connell is usually right there behind him cooling things down with an easygoing set of expressions.

If straight-up mainstream jazz is what you crave, you can't go wrong with Ralph Bowen. Standard Deviation is a solid execution of the form from beginning to end.


Ralph Bowen, Standard Deviations
BOP-N-JAZZ
May 3, 2014
by Brent Black

Review of "Standard Deviation"
www.criticaljazz.com

Ralph Bowen goes slightly left of center while delivering his finest effort in Standard Deviation.

Standard Deviation is the fifth release on the incredibly consistent Posi-Tone label. The irony here being that Bowen has always been a model of consistency, an artist as technically proficient as he is artistically gifted. Bowen's other four releases have been met with critical acclaim however there was a certain air of predictability that surrounded each and not in a bad way. The previous Posi-Tone efforts were the epitome of the classic straight ahead sound with a sizzling swing and arrangements that were zen like in approach. Nothing was wasted...

Standard Deviation has Bowen playing compositions that are certainly a vital part of his harmonic wheelhouse but his arrangements of tunes such as "Isn't It Romantic" and "Dream Dancing" show an amazing ability to manipulate a melody without mangling the original but still managing to move the composition to a new place. The Richard Rogers standard "Isn't It Romantic" is magically reintroduced as a spritely syncopated odd metered gem with an organic heart beat and a color palette as vivid as the cover art. Pianist Bill O'Connell handles the arrangement on "Yesterday" and seems to be singing from the same lyrical hymnal as Bowen with flowing harmonics and a percussive onslaught that puts the paddles to yet another standard that has been beat to death over the past few decades. Bowen is back with the minor key and odd metered Cole Porter number "Dream Dancing." Stellar...

The exponential growth of Ralph Bowen is staggering. Lyrical focused, harmonically intense and with arrangement skills that will help reinvent the Great American Songbook. Standard Deviation continues to reinforce my feeling that Posi-Tone boasts the finest stable of tenor players of any label in North America. Ralph Bowen simply crushes this offering. The all star band in comprised of the previously mentioned Bill O'Connell on piano, Kenny Davis on bass and Donald Edwards on drums, as formidable a 4tet as one could find. Virtually perfect on every level.


Dusty Groove
Review of "Standard Deviation"

Tenorist Ralph Bowen blows some strong magic here – the kind of tone and timing that really transforms the more familiar numbers chosen for the set – so that older standards are turned inside out and opened up as new vehicles for expression – yet all while still managing to swing! The rhythm trio is tight, but fluid – and features Bill O'Connell on piano, Kenny Davis on bass, and Donald Edwards on drums – yet to our ears, Bowen's the main star on the record – and we've never heard him sounding so powerfully creative! Most tracks have a strong focus from start to finish, but cover a surprising amount of ground – and titles include "Yesterdays", "No Moon At All", "Isn't It Romantic", "Dream Dancing", "By Myself", and "You Stepped Out Of A Dream".


Midwest Record Review
5/10/14
Review of "Standard Deviation"

RALPH BOWEN/Standard Deviation: Here's an experiment that really works well. Sax man Bowen tackles the standards, one generally presented in mellow tones, but he changes things up and gives them a hard edge. Solidly swinging post-bop, Bowen and his crew get inside the music and find things generally never brought out on these tunes except in church basements, if at all. Hard hitting stuff that's easy to take, sax fans will really dig the way he and his crew kick it out here. Well done.


Ralph Bowen, Standard Deviations
Something Else!
by S. Victor Aaron
Review of "Standard Deviation"

Tenor saxophone ace Ralph Bowen had been such a non-stop record-making machine since he signed up with Posi-Tone Records around 2009, but he spent 2013 catching his breath, so to speak. And now, he returns with his fifth release for the label, Standard Deviation (out May 13). Returning to the usual acoustic quartet format following his organ jazz encounter with Jared Gold (Total Eclipse, 2012), Bowen tears through a set of standards composed by all the usual suspects Rodgers, Kern and Porter with verve and heaping helpings of swing. Helping him out are Bill O Connell (piano), Kenny Davis (bass) and Donald Edwards (drums). In what might sound like a contradiction of the album s title, Bowen s take on these songs don t deviate too far from the standard treatment of them, and certainly these timeless melodies aren t diluted. But he does lots of little things of light a fire under them. Spring Is Here has an intro that feels like the end of winter transitioning into spring. Yesterdays is turned into a modern jazz delight replete with shifting tempos (and Bowen puts on a sax clinic). Even the ballad You Don t Know What Love Is is barely contained as such, because Edwards livens it up with fills and bombs. After a scorching or soulful Bowen solo, O Connell is usually right there behind him cooling things down with an easygoing set of expressions. If straight-up mainstream jazz is what you crave, you can t go wrong with Ralph Bowen. Standard Deviation is a solid execution of the form from beginning to end.


Ralph Bowen, Standard Deviations
Critical Jazz
by Brent Black
Review of "Standard Deviation"

Ralph Bowen goes slightly left of center while delivering his finest effort in Standard Deviation. Standard Deviation is the fifth release on the incredibly consistent Posi-Tone label. The irony here being that Bowen has always been a model of consistency, an artist as technically proficient as he is artistically gifted. Bowen's other four releases have been met with critical acclaim however there was a certain air of predictability that surrounded each and not in a bad way. The previous Posi-Tone efforts were the epitome of the classic straight ahead sound with a sizzling swing and arrangements that were zen like in approach. Nothing was wasted... Standard Deviation has Bowen playing compositions that are certainly a vital part of his harmonic wheelhouse but his arrangements of tunes such as "Isn't It Romantic" and "Dream Dancing" show an amazing ability to manipulate a melody without mangling the original but still managing to move the composition to a new place. The Richard Rogers standard "Isn't It Romantic" is magically reintroduced as a spritely syncopated odd metered gem with an organic heart beat and a color palette as vivid as the cover art. Pianist Bill O'Connell handles the arrangement on "Yesterday" and seems to be singing from the same lyrical hymnal as Bowen with flowing harmonics and a percussive onslaught that puts the paddles to yet another standard that has been beat to death over the past few decades. Bowen is back with the minor key and odd metered Cole Porter number "Dream Dancing." Stellar... The exponential growth of Ralph Bowen is staggering. Lyrical focused, harmonically intense and with arrangement skills that will help reinvent the Great American Songbook. Standard Deviation continues to reinforce my feeling that Posi-Tone boasts the finest stable of tenor players of any label in North America. Ralph Bowen simply crushes this offering. The all star band in comprised of the previously mentioned Bill O'Connell on piano, Kenny Davis on bass and Donald Edwards on drums, as formidable a 4tet as one could find. Virtually perfect on every level.


Ralph Bowen, Standard Deviations
by Gary Walker, WBGO music director
Review of "Standard Deviation"

Saxophonist Ralph Bowen has made his mark on the New York jazz scene for over three decades with what he calls "casual perfectionism." He's been documented on over 70 recordings, including those with Horace Silver, Kenny Garrett, Renee Rosnes, Michel Camilo and Steve Wilson. Bowen has appeared with Art Blakey, Michael Brecker, Ron Carter, Kenny Barron and Gary Bartz, among others of note. For Standard Deviation, Bowen's fifth release for The Posi-Tone label, Ralph comes together in a powerful quartet setting with pianist Bill O'Connell, bassist Kenny Davis and drummer Donald Edwards to reinvent eight standards to their liking. Richard Rodgers' "Isn't It Romantic" and Jerome Kern's "Yesterdays" show a tenor saxophonist at the top of his abilities, setting standards on edge, exploring all the possibilities this kind of experience affords. This group has a comfort with one another giving familiarity a new face; a new energy possible, as you'll hear on "Yesterdays", one of two tunes arranged for this date by pianist O'Connell. Bowen's lines explore to where this one could very well be renamed "Todays." The plaintive posture of "You Don't Know What Love Is" has that casual perfection Ralph subscribes to as comfortable as a late night listen with a special someone you might be wondering about, with hints of a Dexter Gordon last set with Kenny Drew at Cafe Monmartre. "You Stepped Out Of A Dream," the other tune arranged by the pianist, sets a course for these four to realize a dream of their own, stating the theme, then exploring all possibilities lesser experience can only dream about. Bowen's arrangement of another Richard Rodgers gem, "Spring Is Here," is a perfect springboard for O'Connell, Davis and Edwards to show their striking synergy, with the leader seasoning this one for a fresh encounter. Some Cole Porter is in order next with "Dream Dancing," where Ralph' s tenor speaks new volumes, urged to dance by the trio's call and response. "By Myself" closes the date at a furious pace, with four as one, making us realize that everything old is indeed new again. The energy here makes us all wish we had picked up an instrument years back. On the inside sleeve of this record, Frank Zappa is quoted as saying, "Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible." For Ralph Bowen and his musical friends, the deviation is anything but standard. Rather, the listener is awash in the true essence of the jazz performance - making great music together in the moment. The time here has countless moments well spent.


Review of "Standard Deviation"

Everyone will notice a change from the norm as saxophonist Ralph Bowen shows up strongly on the scene with "Standard Deviation." His fifth release on Posi-Tone unleashes a powerful quartet date featuring the solid harmonic foundation of pianist Bill O'Connell, bassist Kenny Davis, and the explosive metrics of drummer Donald Edwards. Many jazz fans may already be familiar with Bowen's earlier work, but now the time has come for another generation to discover the bold and melodic mastery of Ralph Bowen. We are confident that "Standard Deviation" and Ralph Bowen's musical message will surely delight the ears of serious listeners and bring a joyous shout and groovy swing to jazz fans everywhere.


Ralph Bowen, Power Play

Reviews for "Power Play"

"Saxophonist Ralph Bowen's Power Play is a solid and straightahead album that juxtaposes fearless up-tempo playing with pensive introspection. Bowen, who has chops galore, displays his mastery of tenor, alto, and soprano throughout."
- Chris Robinson, Down Beat Magazine
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"Ralph Bowen is an assured saxophonist and versatile composer who clearly enjoys spontaneous conversation with his mates. In short, Power Play is an unpretentious delight."
- Carlo Wolff, Jazz Times Magazine
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"Power Play, with its mixture of driving, thought-provoking material and gentler journeys, demonstrates that power manifests itself in different ways, and remains ever-present within the work of saxophonist Ralph Bowen.
- Dan Bilawsky, All About Jazz
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"Bowen's sound and solo phrases never disappoint the listener. As he stretches out deep into the choruses, you can hear his ever-present stellar technique. At times he seemingly pays homage to Coltrane and the "sheets of sound" approach."
- Skip Spratt, SaxShed.Com
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"Power Play is a disc of hard-driving, intense, full-throttle, straight-ahead jazz."
- John Vincent Barron
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"With the addition of fast-rising pianist Orrin Evans, and due to the fact that all the tracks on Power Play were written by Ralph - with the exception of "My One and Only Love" - Power Play was eagerly anticipated by Bowen fans."
- Jeff Krow, Audiophile Audition
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"If you play, this is a clinic in the kind of things you could be doing, and maybe should be doing. Bowen's sense of melody is stunning, and yet completely unpredictable. He alternates effortlessly between scales and modes, shows off some wickedly blistering speed in places yet only when he really has to drive a point home. The closest comparison is probably Joshua Redman, but Bowen's attack is lighter and more crystalline, and that contrasts, sometimes mightily, with the intensity of the tunes."
- Lucid Culture
Read More...


Ralph Bowen, Due Reverance

Reviews for "Due Reverence"

"The combination of competently-crafted tunes from Bowen (director of jazz ensembles at Rutgers), played by this outstanding group, will hopefully help Due Reverence draw more attention to the saxophonist's work."
- John Patten, All About Jazz
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"Bowen's superb articulation is par excellent and his facility is superb."
- Ralph Miriello, Notes on Jazz
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"Backed by a hard-hitting quintet (trumpeter Sean Jones, guitarist Adam Rogers, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Antonio Sanchez), Bowen proves he's near the top of the tenor sax heap."
- Joel Roberts, All About Jazz
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"Simply stated, the saxophonist packs a mighty punch while underscoring his virtuosity with fluency and an authoritative tone. And he gets to the point, whether dishing out hyper-mode bop phrasings or easing the listener into a peppery ballad with soul-stirring intonations"
- Glenn Astarita, Jazz Review
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"Rather than an album with multiple short to moderate songs, Due Reverence simplifies things with only five tracks, each running more than six minutes. That not only allows plenty of freedom for the soloists, but also a heavy dose of interplay among the group."
- Woodrow Wilkins, All About Jazz
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"Overall, this is very fine mainstream jazz and is highly recommended."
- 100 Greatest Jazz Albums
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"Due Reverence is a gem of an album from beginning to end. All five compositions by its protagonist, tenor saxophonist Ralph Bowen, deserve high praise for outstanding invention and impeccable execution. These are erudite compositions, delving not just into musical characters, but more than anything else, empathizing with them, emoting with them by taking turns on a trapeze of highs and lows with swooping changes in tone and manner. And best of all there is incredible rhythmic invention in each of the musical elegies—from a walking and trotting swing to a challenging shuffle-skip-and-fly rhythm executed in a most unfettered way."
- Raul d'Gama Rose, All About Jazz
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"This is a nice confident jazz album filled with compelling solos and well versed ensemble playing."
- Tim Niland, Music and More
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"While this is definitely Ralph Bowen's show, his choice of musical comrades makes this music positively shine. Like Tom Harrell, Bowen started with "real" melodies, not riffs, and the music has great flow."
- Richard B. Kamins, Step Tempest
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"Bowen's saxophone playing here is both sensuous and assured with a mature big-toned timbre."
- Jeff Krow, Audiophile Audition
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"The tenor saxophone dynamo Ralph Bowen builds his solid new CD around compositions written for core musical mentors. Here, Bowen winningly employs his warm, penetrating sound and moving improv style deeply influenced by John Coltrane."
- Zan Stewart, NJ.com
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"Saxophonist/Rutgers Jazz Studies Associate Professor Bowen composed a smart album of complex originality, pushing the band (Adam Rogers-guitar, Sean Jones-trumpet, John Patitucci-bass, Antonio Sanchez-drums) to swing a little harder with each track."
- Layla Macoran, NY Culture Examiner
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"...saxophonist Ralph Bowen, a truly bad-ass player who has appeared on over 60 recordings as a sideman and leader. Due Reverence, his second release on Posi-Tone, is prime example of his continued voice as a musician and leader."
- Mark F. Turner, All About Jazz
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Ralph Bowen, Dedicated

Reviews for "Dedicated"

"The music is straight ahead post bop played with flare and precision."
- Ralph Bowen Dedicated #11-100 Greatest Jazz Albums 2009
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"Everything here is a gem, showcasing Bowen's muscular tenor and strong credentials as a composer and improviser."
- Ken Frankling, Jazz Notes
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"His playing has exceptional fluidity without the slightest degradation of tone. It is filled with inventiveness and free from cliche" 94/100
- Ralph Miriello, Jazz.com
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"...is a vehicle for Bowen to show his tenor prowess."
- Jeff Krow, Audiophile Audition
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"...this recording is a real swinging tour-de-force. Aside from the fact that these are some of my favorite players, both Ralph's playing and compositional skills really shine here. His playing is truly virtuosic and the writing is supremely interesting, swinging and never "heady"."
- Damian Erskine, Bass Musician Magazine
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"Ralph Bowen's best quality as a tenor player is said to be his "casual perfectionism." Maybe that's true, but there's nothing casual about Dedicated, a collection of musical shout-outs to the mentors that helped shape Bowen's sound and career"
- J. Hunter, All About Jazz
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"Meanwhile, the tenor explores upper and lower reaches of its range, at times at a fiery pace,"
- Woodrow Wilkins, All About Jazz
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"The well-matched timbre of the group's sound reveals that the time and care put into this project paid off. Bowen has a mastery of his instrument not unlike Michael Brecker, cites John Coltrane as his main influence, but plays with more nuance and reserve than either. He travels through the music and chooses to become part of the fiber of the group-sound, except on "E.R.," which is a solo piece that let's him weave his own song, from long drawn out tones to 32nd-note runs, syncopated triplets and reflection."
- Blaine Fallis, All About Jazz
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"Dedicated is a consistently enjoyable demonstration of Bowen's skills as both a saxophonist and a composer."
- Alex Henderson, All Music Guide
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