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StepTempest reviews Ralph Bowen “Total Eclipse”…

Total Eclipse“, the 4th Posi-Tone Records release fromRalph Bowen, has much to recommend it. Just look at the group Bowen plays with; the fine young organist Jared Gold, the supple guitarist Mike Morenoand the splendid drummerRudy Royston. Powered by the drummer (who, in the last few years, has worked with saxophonist JD Allen, bassist Ben Allison, guitarist Bill Frissell, bassist Linda Oh and so many more), this music seems to surge forward. His relentless drive on “Hip Check” really propels the band (the leader lays down his most high-powered solo of the set) while his increasing intensity on the title track (you can download it below) spurs everyone to really dig in.  Yet, his subtle touch paired with Gold’s creative accompaniment on “On Green” complement the fine solos of Moreno and the leader.  Then, there is Gold who continues to impress with his overall work.  As an accompanist, he reminds me of the late Larry Young in his early Blue Note days.  He’s quite impressive throughout but no more so than on “Exosphere” where his background work is essential to the forward motion of the tune.  Yes, he’s got “soul” in his phrases, blues in his sounds, but his solos are jazz to the core, explorations that go in unexpected but smart directions.   Moreno is a solid partner to Bowen on the front line, his “round” yet sometime “sharp’ sound playing off the burbling organ and hearty tenor saxophone.  He understands how to build a solo, often starting out experimenting with a counter-melody then digging into the groove and pushing the intensity (all this is quite noticeable on “Arrows of Light.”)

As for Ralph Bowen, he luxuriates and flourishes in these sounds.  His tenor sounds quite relaxed yet also quite focused. The 9 tracks, all Bowen originals, feel fresh, taking influences from all parts of the jazz world (hard-bop, funk, touches of Latin rhythms) and creating good music.  The sweet melody of “In My Dreams“, the only true ballad on the CD, brings to mind soul music from the 1970s while “Into TheCity” is “funk-swing” at its best.   Bowen plays some solid soprano sax on “The Dowsing Rod“, his handsome tones and lyrical solo giving way to the more “stinging” sounds of Moreno’s guitar.

Play “Total Eclipse” from beginning to end and you’ll hear 4 musicians not only having a great time but also making adult music of the first order.  “Adult”, in that is not “dumbed-down” for commercial success but that it is playful, inspired, fully realized and involves the listener on many levels.  Ralph Bowen continues to produce really good music – don’t hide your eyes or ears from this “..Eclipse.”