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Music and More on Ralph Bowen “Standard Deviation”…







Ralph Bowen – Standard Deviation (Posi-Tone, 2014) Ralph Bowen is widely active in New Jersey and New York as a saxophonist and educator. This album finds him recording selections from the standard repertoire in the company of of Bill O’Connell on piano, Kenny Davis on bass and Donald Edwards on drums. Although the material on this album is quite familiar, they play the music with self-confidence and assurance. Opening with the medium tempo “Isn’t It Romantic” in which they pursue the music in a patient and thoughtful manner, the group uses the melodic material to unlock more of potential of the music like on the well known song “Yesterdays” where Bowen begins the song at a ballad tempo before slowly ramping up his solo to a fine faster statement. This album may not reinvent the wheel, but for fans of the popular songbook, this is classy and accessible jazz that is sure to please.

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Walt Weiskopf and Ralph Bowen get high praise from Richard Kamins of StepTempest …

If ever there was an apropos name for recording, “Overdrive” is the one.  The brand new CD by saxophonist/composer Walt Weiskopf, his debut on Posi-Tone, is powered by the rhythm section of Donald  Edwards(drums), David Wong (bass) and Peter Zak (piano). The leader, who sticks to tenor sax for this date, also utilizes the talents of Yotam Silberstein (guitar) and label mate Behn Gillece(vibraphone).

The program powers out of the gate with the first of 9 original compositions, “The Path Is Narrow.”  The saxophonist heads straight to hard-bop territory but, to his credit, all the songs have solid melody lines.  His insistent attack, powerful tone and forceful solos stand out on pieces such as “Like Mike” (the lightning fast melody line will pin you to the chair), the title track (where Edwards’ cymbals set a torrid pace) and “No Biz” (where Weiskopf delivers a Coltrane-esque solo and Silberstein channels Charlie Christian).  The blend of Gillece’s vibes with the guitar, sax and piano on “Night Vision” stands out – the mix is so clear each instrument stands out.


The program includes several lovely ballads.  “Jewel And A  Flower” opens with a lovely melody and is notable for the harmony created by Zak’s left hand and the bass.  The vibes serve to color the melody and frees Wong to create counterpoint to the sax.  The blend of guitar and saxophone on the theme of “Waltz For Dad” fills out the sound, leaving both the piano and vibes to create the sumptuous background. The one non-orginal track, Michel LeGrand’s “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life“, a piece one might expect to hear as a ballad, is taken at a a medium tempo, giving the song a lighter feel.

Walt Weiskopf released 9 CDs for Gerry Teekens’ Criss Cross label (10, if you also count the season he co-led with saxophonist And Fusco), recordings that featured ensembles of various sizes, especially the 2 nonet albums. “Overdrive” displays his craftsmanship as both a musician and composer (his compositions all have very good melodies).  This is good music to play with the windows open, bright and appealing.  For more information, go to

Standard Deviation“, the 5th Posi-Tone release for tenor saxophonist Ralph Bowen, is another recording that lives up to its name.  The program is comprised of all standards, an approach that Bowen has yet to attempt in his discography.  However, the saxophonist does not deviate from his style;  he’s a powerful player with a full sound yet always keeps melody foremost in his music.  Joining him in this venture is Donald Edwards (drums) and Kenny Davis (bass) – the rhythm section from 2011’s “Power Play” release  – plus pianist Bill O’Connell

The quartet has fun with these pieces, some of which are considered “evergreens.” The program opens with Richard Rodgers’ “Isn’t It Romantic” (originally performed by Jeanette MacDonald in the 1932 movie “Love Me Tonight”). The rhythm section pushes the tempo up while both Bowen and O’Connell swing the heck out of the piece, the former adding real muscle to his sound.  Jerome Kern composed “Yesterdays” for the 1933 film “Roberta”.  Here, the pianist’s arrangement adds a Latin feel and lets Bowen loose over the energetic drumming (Edwards’ ability to “drive” an ensemble has been well documented over the past few years, from his work with pianist Orrin Evans to the Mingus Big Band.)

One of the other better-known piece on the CD is “You Don’t Know What Love Is“, composed by Gene de Paul (music) and Don Raye (lyrics), was originally composed for a movie starring Abbott & Costello (!) but was eventually pulled.  The movie studio, Universal, then placed the song in one its lesser productions (starring The Ritz Brothers).  The movie is long forgotten but the song as been recorded by countless pop and jazz artists.  Bowen and company play the song as a smoky ballad, with a most passionate reading by the leader.

O’Connell’s left hand joins with the bass of Davis to underpin the latin-inspired rhythms of Cole Porter’s “Dream Dancing“, the track with the longest and arguably, best tenor solo on the CD and that follows a wonderful solo by the pianist. Davis creates a furious walking line on the final track, “By Myself“, serving as a launching pad for a fiery tenor solo and rollicking work from Edwards.

Standard Deviation” is anything but standard or deviant. What it is is good music, fine playing and a pleasure to listen to.  For more information, go to or

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Ralph Bowen “Standard Deviation” gets a review on Dusted in Exile….

Ralph Bowen – Standard Deviation (Posi-Tone)


With a title that risks accusations of the overly arch, tenorist Ralph Bowen’s Standard Deviation still telegraphs its intent with admirable economy. Eight standards parsed and pieced back together in deviously different forms by a quartet of equals. Bowen quotes Zappa in the gatefold sleeve, and that influence is tangentially audible in the sanguine irreverence he brings to the arrangements of the antiquated tunes. Pianist Bill O’Connell handles two, but Bowen’s modest ingenuity informs the others. Bassist Kenny Davis and drummer Donald Edwards complete the ensemble.

Blue-hair composers Richard Rodgers, Jerome Kern and Cole Porter all make appearances starting with the opening rendering of “Isn’t It Romantic”, which wastes no time in celebrating Bowen’s crushed velvet tone and agile phrasing. O’Connell keeps the rhythm section moving, goading the leader into some coarser blowing before taking a jaunty two-handed solo and priming the others for the calm that returns on the close. The origins of “No Moon At All” are a bit more obscure, but it was a number popular with Sinatra. Bowen once again engages the theme with gusto, lacing his lines with upper register cries and sprinting to double-time mid-piece amidst boisterous cymbal splashes from Edwards.

“Yesterdays” and “You Don’t Know What Love Is” are the ballad equivalent of rib eye and green beans, the most standard of standards fare. O’Connell’s arrangement of the first adds some spice with some sharp comping under the Bowen’s melody statement and the brisk tempo helps, but the fossilized tune seems largely incidental when stacked against the energetic solos that frame it. Bowen takes a different approach on the second, slowing to a languorous lope and stretching his lines for heightened emotional heft. O’Connell opens up the accompaniment to enhance the sense of space.

Under O’Connell’s preparations “You Stepped Out of a Dream” gains an effervescent Latin rhythm and pivots on a tune-stealing solo from the pianist while “Spring Is Here” is also the territory of the rhythm section until Bowen’s soulful return in a barrage of register-leaping runs that littered with reed effects. “Dream Dancing” and “By Myself” carry over the momentum and are almost of a piece with shifting tempo signals and a steadying central thrust by Bowen on the first matching a communal propulsion on the last. Some of the saxophonist’s signature ornamentations begin to sound the same across the disc’s duration, but there’s no doubting the level of craft, drive and dedication behind the project.

Derek Taylor


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AAJ’s Glenn Astarita reviews Ralph Bowen “Standard Deviation”…

Ralph Bowen: Standard Deviation (2014)


Published: May 20, 2014

Ralph Bowen: Standard Deviation

Track review of “Yesterdays” 

Tenor saxophonist Ralph Bowen (Out Of The Blue, Horace Silver, Michel Camillo) is a highly regarded New York-based artiste and an idea man who can stand with the best of them. With his fifth solo venture for Posi- Tone Records Bowen tackles standards, and as the title intimates, he often deviates from the norm. 

Jerome Kern’s “Yesterdays” receives a Latin uplift, sparked by venerable pianist Bill O’Connell‘s topsy-turvy opening statements and bristling unison choruses with the rhythm section. From this point onward, they spring into a buoyant romp as Bowen stokes the coals via a ferocious series of choruses. He adds enough bite to impart a distinct edge, yet interweaves his melodic flair into ultra-fluid lines and improvises within the lower to medium registers. But he doesn’t waste any notes and injects a few emphatic honks and squeaks into the upper-registers to raise the pitch with a stirring climatic assault while also infusing brevity into O’ Connell’s flavorful arrangement. Ultimately, Bowen and his first-class ensemble ruffle a few feathers and take matters into their own hands by not tendering literal readings of these rather shopworn works. (Zealously recommended…)

Track Listing: Isn’t It Romantic; No Moon At All, Yesterdays; You Don’t Know What Love Is; You Stepped Out Of A Dream; Spring Is Here; Dream Dancing; By Myself

Personnel: Ralph Bowen: tenor saxophone; Bill O’Connell: piano; Kenny Davis: bass; Donald Edwards: drums.

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Ralph Bowen is on WBGO’s radar….

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.


Ralph Bowen’s Standard Deviation comes out May 20th.

   Gary Walker, WBGO music director


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Another review for Ralph Bowen’s new release…

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. 

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SomethingElse Reviews Ralph Bowen’s new release “Standard Deviation”…

Tenor saxophone ace Ralph Bowen had been such a non-stop record-making machine since he signed up withPosi-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.


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Here’s the first review for our latest release by saxophonist Ralph Bowen “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.