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Thomas Conrad reviews Ralph Bowen “Total Eclipse” for JazzTimes…

Ralph Bowen plays a pure strain of postmodern tenor saxophone. He is hugely proficient technically and consistently spills his guts. Take “Into the City.” Its quick, jagged, asymmetrical head is like a call to arms. Bowen builds from a few repeated adjacent tones to long convoluted lines that sound like onslaughts until you hear that they are actually sets of subtle variations (if in-your-face tenor can be subtle).

It follows that he makes good records. His three most recent, Power Play Due Reverence and Dedicated , all on Posi-Tone, were aesthetic undertakings as tenor saxophone clinics. Total Eclipse might be his best yet. It has Bowen’s hottest band ever.

The guys are relatively new. Jared Gold is an organist who maximizes the resources of his instrument. When he and Bowen combine for maximum unison power, as on “Exosphere,” this quartet hits like a big band. When Gold unleashes the full force of the B3 on a wild, roaring piece like “Hip Check,” he does not so much comp as slam and bash behind Bowen, catapulting him forward. Yet Gold also takes solos of glittering detail and piquant discord, as on “In My Dreams.” Mike Moreno is a free thinker on guitar. He complements the ensemble sound with off-center pinpoints of light, and takes intriguing, ambiguous solos. Rudy Royston, who plays free drums in the tenor trio of JD Allen, operates in a more defined, organized role with Bowen. But he still sounds dangerously volatile.

There are eight strong tracks and one tour de force. Bowen’s dash through the head of “Hip Check” is impossibly fast and exact, then he improvises at the same rapid data rate. Royston rockets; Moreno ululates; Gold shrieks. Bowen rivets the theme into place at the end. Another day at the office.

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Some props for Posi-Tone at Gallery 41….

FRIDAY, JULY 13, 2012

Just a few of the great new releases….

Focusing on just a few of the really terrific new releases, this time from Positone Records produced by Marc Free:Pianist Orrin Evans has a terific new trio date called “Flip The Script” with Ben Wolfe on bass and Donald Edwards playing the drums.

Flip The Script

Saxophonist Ralph Bowen’s new release is “Total Eclipse” and features Bowen in the company of organist Jared Gold, Rudy Royston on drums, and the marvelous guitar playing of Mike Moreno.

Total EclipseBrandon Wright on saxophone is joined by David Kikoski piano, Boris Kozlov bass, and Donald Edwards on drums on Brandon’s second recording as leader called “Journeyman”.


Come on by and share the music with us whenever you can!

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Another review for Ralph Bowen “Total Eclipse”…

RALPH BOWEN“Total Eclipse”
(Posi-Tone Records)
Blue Note Records gave Canadian saxman Ralph Bowen his big break in 1985 by putting him in Out of the Blue, a sextet of hard-bopping young lions that included Kenny Garrett, Ralph Peterson and Charles Fambrough. Now 27 years later, Bowen links up with another set of young lions, and the result is the most exciting release of Bowen’s four-year run with Pos-i-Tone, the successor to Blue Note as the No. 1 purveyor of straight-ahead jazz. Spurred on by Jared Gold’s ram-tough Hammond B3 and Mike Moreno’ssingular guitar sound, Bowen is blowing hard and nasty on the opening title track, and he keeps throwing fastballs throughout the date. Moreno and Gold strut their nasty solo stuff on “Behind the Curtain” and “On Green,” while Rudy Royston’sstatus as one of the genre’s best young drummers gets yet another boost. “Total Eclipse” has the combination of artistry and toughness trad jazz needs to stay relevant. Props to Bowen for not standing pat.

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Another nice review for Ralph Bowen “Total Eclipse”…

Saxophonist Ralph Bowen has carved out a fine niche for himself on the mainstream jazz scene as an educator at Rutgers University, and as a recording artist. This is a fine mainstream jazz hard-bop recording where Bowen is performing with Jared Gold on organ, Mike Moreno on guitar and Rudy Royston on durms. Switching to the organ format makes for an interesting album, focusing the music on meat and potatoes mainstream jazz is the order of the day here, and straight-ahead jazz fans should be quite satisfied by this offering. Fellow Posi-Tone recording artist Jared gold keeps the organ bubbling and purring and under-rated guitarist Moreno plays very well. Royston keeps the beat moving throughout, keeping everybody on track and pushing and pulling at will. Bowen has a patient and reverent sound on tenor making for a very impressive performance. Fans of solid mainstream jazz will enjoy this quite a bit, Bowen has an excellent pedigree as a leader and a sideman with the like of Horace Silver and many others, and this is another fine addition to his discography.

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OutsideInsideOut writes up Ralph Bowen “Total Eclipse”…

Marc Free’s Posi-Tone Records is one of a handful of labels that churns out a significant number of quality albums on a regular basis.  In the past couple of months the label has sent numerous new releases my way, so today I’m hitting you with a multi-part rundown of some of my favorites.

I reviewed tenor saxophonist Ralph Bowen’s last album, Power Play, in Downbeat.  In that review I compared Bowen’s sick chops and certain stylistic elements to Brecker, and thought his soprano approach was slightly reminiscent of Branford – comparisons which earned me a reaming out in a letter to the editor, even though it was a positive review.  Bowen’s followup to that album is Total Eclipse, which features Posi-tone mainstay Jared Gold on organ, guitarist Mike Moreno, and drummer Rudy Royston.  While I stand by my review of Power Play, I find Bowen’s playing on Total Eclipse(whether on tenor or soprano) to be extremely focused, sharp, swinging and reminding me of only one player: Ralph Bowen.

Bowen penned all nine of the hour long album’s tracks.  The title track opens the album in an easy, swinging fashion, with Bowen mixing up phrase lengths, rhythms and articulation and accent patterns – slinking, sliding, and winding his way through his solo.  On his brief solo Gold mixes a slightly percussive phrases based on short note values with  longer and more held out phrases, building upon Bowen’s statement nicely.  “The Dowsing Rod” features Bowen on soprano and is one metrically tricky trip, having sections in 10, in 3 and in 4.  Moreno sounds particularly good on this track, letting his slightly reverby sound and relaxed phrasing glide over Gold and Roysten.  The penultimate cut, “Hip Check,” is a rowdy and rocking showcase for Bowen’s aggressive tenor.  Royston holds things down with a slight backbeat and forward driving cymbals and Gold backs up Bowen’s solo by mixing up long sustained chords with quick jabs.  Moreno’s solo, supported by a very active Royston, is for the most part quite understated, providing a nice contrast to Bowen’s fire.

Overall Total Eclipse is an excellent outing that displays tight group playing, swinging charts containing a ton of craft and subtle hipness, and soloists who bring a firey intensity and creativity.  If you dig other releases on Posi-tone, or are a Ralph Bowen fan, then definitely check this CD out.  And if you’re not familiar with either, this album would be a great place to start.

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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.”

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Lucid Culture reviews Ralph Bowen “Total Eclipse”…

Ralph Bowen Flips the Script

If you were looking for a sequel to saxophonist Ralph Bowen’s 2011 release, Power Play, you won’t get it, at least not this time around. This blog called that one “hard-hitting, purposeful and tuneful beyond belief” and ranked it as one of last year’s five best jazz albums. Bowen’s new album Total Eclipse is quite a change. Although Jared Gold’s B3 anchors the tunes here, it’s hardly your typical organ-and-sax record. It’s as if Bowen decided to totally flip the script and do pensive and opaque instead of rigorously melodic. This one’s also a lot more rhythmically complex, but if you hang with it, it grows on you, with thoughtful and impactful playing from the rest of the band as well, Mike Moreno on guitar and the nonpareil Rudy Royston (of JD Allen’s trio) on drums. Bowen is playing a pair of cd release shows at Smalls this weekend, June 8 and 9 at 10 PM with a slightly different lineup, Gold on organ plus Freddie Bryant on guitar and Donald Edwards behind the kit.

All this is not to say that there isn’t memorable tunesmithing here. The closing cut, a soul ballad titled In My Dreams, begins with a nebulous, suspenseful sway and then artfully juxtaposes mysterioso ambience with Bowen’s warm, bucolic lead lines. A lickety-split showcase for Royston’s precise machine-gun attack, the funky Hip Check works clever rhythmic permutations on staggered sax clusters. Continuing in reverse order, the ten-minute epic Exosphere is the most ambitious and memorable track here. Beginning as a somewhat altered, anthemic soul tune held down by a signature Royston rumble, they go into tiptoe swing for a bit, Bowen adding some unexpectedly tasty microtones and chromatics, then bring it down ominous and suspenseful for a long, chordally-charged organ solo that Royston eventually can’t resist bringing out of the murk.

Arrows of Light alternates tricky funk with purposeful swing, Bowen setting an apprehensive tone early on that Moreno and Gold bring even higher in turn with a chromatic intensity. On Green (as in “go on green”), which precedes it, works a casual-versus-tense dichotomy, a pervasive sense of the unexpected finally resolving into a sense of triumph on the wings of Gold’s insistent, unpredictably stabbing chords. They set that one up with The Dowsing Rod, a similar tension (Bowen calm and bucolic, Gold on edge) resolving picturesquely when they suddenly hit the water table. There’s also the swaying, offbeat Into the City, sort of a polyrhythmic take on a go-go theme with some smartly intricate beatwise interplay between Bowen and Gold; Behind the Curtain, with pensive syncopation, Gold artfully shadowing a casually piercing Moreno solo (his fat, slightly reverb-tinged tone here always raises the intensity factor); and the opening, title track, brightly swinging but avoiding any type of resolution. Why explain these tracks in reverse? Because the album makes more sense that way: start with the catchy stuff and work your way back to the more abstruse numbers and everything makes more sense. It’s out now on Posi-Tone.

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Brent Black takes on Ralph Bowen “Total Eclipse”…

Swing is rhythmic feel or groove created by the musical interaction or chemistry between the performers. Swing or this “groove” manifests itself in a visceral response essentially music your feel with your hips and feel with your feet.
With a total solar eclipse the Sun’s corona can be seen shining in all directions around the moon. This glimpse of the corona is breathtaking as this is the only time the corona can be seen.
While this somewhat academic explanation may seem odd as applied to Ralph Bowen’sTotal Eclipse allow the idea of Bowen as the celestial body and his first call trio that passes through this release as the breathtaking corona that highlights the intense swing of Ralph Bowen.

There are a million tenor players in the naked city with many having the ability to play the notes but not make the music. Bowen is a master technician who blows with the precision of a surgeon while drawing an intense lyrical swing from a visceral place most players can play thirty years and still not find. Shying away from the word “sidemen” we have Jared Gold on organ who is the perfect musical visionary for his role on this or virtually any other recording I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. Mike Moreno adds texture and swagger to an ensemble that are far more than just a handful of some of the better “sidemen” you can find. Moreno may well be the equivalent of sonic glue in bringing the rhythm section together. Rudy Royston is perhaps one of the most underrated drummers working the scene today. If Royston is on a release the rhythm section will be tight and the pocket will be held firmly in hand by Royston.

Opening with the title track “Total Eclipse” the straight ahead power of Bowen will hit you right between the eyes. A hard edged lyrical sense of purpose as the groove laid down by the ensemble and especially the first rate solo turned in by Gold is a thing of beauty. Seemingly working without a harmonic net this 4tet goes for it and takes no prisoners. A release of all originals can be somewhat of a musical roll of the dice but not for Bowen whose tunes can take one make to the days of Blue Note and Impulse which was when real swing was king. Posi-Tone can lay claim to a huge chunk of that crown now. The somewhat soulful ballad oriented “The Dowsing Rod” differs totally in style. While the lyrical drive is never absent the intensity is transferred nicely to a tune that showcases Bowen’s versatility not only in compositions that can go slightly more post bop influenced but in his mastery of improvisational consistency that is seldom heard. Moreno clean single note runs move deftly in and out of a tune that develops its own organic pulse and finds a musical happy place between post bop and modern jazz. “Hip Check” has Royston checking in with an opening solo that is more of an instructional guide or masterclass for those with drumming aspirations. Bowen is on fire with an improvisational firepower most tenor players struggle to pull off with this kind of intensity and direction.

While there is no doubt Ralph Bowen can swing like a beast perhaps the most captivating aspect of Total Eclipse is the variety and texture. Taking a sonic page from the ECM playbook there is an ebb and flow that allows this release to give up a little something new with each subsequent spin of disc. This is not a release for the jazz faint of heart. This is meat and potatoes swing that you can sink your teeth into. At times Total Eclipse is the perfect example of controlled sonic fury. My sincere hope this is not the last we have heard from this particular 4tet. A swing that is hard, honest and with a strong sense of lyrical direction this my friends is what swing is all about!

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An international review for Ralph Bowen “Total Eclipse”…

Come from the distant mountains Canada, like most level players, he also got into this at an early age. At just 13 years already had his quartet in Toronto. As a teenager, he received a scholarship to study at the Canada Council For The Arts. He studied with drummer LaBarbera and Kieth Blackley. In addition, he performed and recorded with Canadian fusion group, “Manteca.” And in 1983 and 1984, was awarded two more scholarships to continue their studies at the Jazz Department at the University of Indiana, where he honed his skills in the Artist Diploma program under the tutelage of David Baker. In 1985, he and Cecil Taylor were elected “Jazz Main Men of the Year” by Canada’s Toronto Globe. Bowen also won an audition at the Blue Note, being co-leader in what is known in the contemporary jazz band Out of the Blue (OTB). He moved to New York and recorded four albums for Blue Note. After recording a series of albums for the Dutch label Criss Cross Jazz. And more recently, working for the Posi-Tone label.
In 1986, Bowen began to travel across five continents, acclaimed pianist Michel Camilo, who eventually recorded a few jobs for soundtracks and movies. In addition, between 1986 and 1991, Bowen completed three world tours with pianists Horace Silver and Jim Beard.
The swing set is the rhythmic feel of music pora interaction and chemistry between the musicians. Swing or groove, is manifested as a visceral response in which you feel like your hips and your feet move independently, outside of your own will.
Ralph Bowen, with his new album “Total Eclipse” calls into question any theory of voluntary movement of the feet and hips.
There are a lot of tenoristas with great ability to play notes and more notes. Bowen is a master of the technique to blow with the precision of a watchmaker, while drawing intense lyrical swing from the inside. But on this trip to the proximity to the public, accompanying four musicazos tightly coupled to the concept of Ralph. Jared Gold the organ, is the perfect visionary. Mike Moreno’s guitar adds texture and arrogance to the group, to become much more than a mere sideman. Rudy Royston is perhaps one of the batteries today that more understated work. If Royston is one of danger, which is responsible for the rhythm section. No bass or bass, but he stands firm with its battery casing.
While there is no doubt that Ralph Bowen may sound like a beast, perhaps the most fascinating aspect of “Total Eclipse” is its variety and texture. Looking on any page of the agenda of musicians with ECM sound, there is an ebb and flow, allowing the jazz version offer something new at every turn that gives the disc. Any release for jazzmans faint of heart, the perfect example of controlled sonic fury. A swing that may be hard, but honest and with a great sense of poetry. There is no swing jazz!

Artists: Ralph Bowen, sax | Jared Gold, organ | Mike Moreno, guitar | Rudy Royston on drums.

Topics: 1 “Total Eclipse”, 2 “Behind The Curtain”, 3 “Into the City”, 4 “The Dowsing Rod”, 5 “On Green”, 6 “Arrows Of The Light”, 7 “Exosphere”, 8 ” Hip Check “, 9” In My Dreams “.

Edit: Posi-Tone (2012)

By Arion Molina | May 12, 2012

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SomethingElse reviews Ralph Bowen “Total Eclipse”…
The cover for Ralph Bowen’s newest release Total Eclipse is a picture of a “ring of fire” solar exclipse, much like the one that provided a spectacular show for residents of the U.S. Southwest on Monday. Putting on a saxophone show is what Ralph is about, though, and for the forth time in three years, he’s putting for a new album deploying a different type of ensemble. This time, Bowen is leading a organ/guitar quartet making good use of the services of B-3 boss Jared Gold and guitarist Mike Moreno; Rudy Royston mans the drums. Bowen was a key player on Gold’s breakthrough All Wrapped Up from last year and while Total Eclipse isn’t the angular, studious affair of that record, he’s not channeling Stanley Turrentine, either. Eclipse splits the difference, an album full of soul but not predictable soul riffs and licks (“On Green,” heard on the YouTube below, is a highlight). Occasionally, there’s a surprise or two to prevent any monotony from settling in, like the rock-out combustible jam “Hip Check,” and the soprano sax delight “The Dowsing Rod.”

Ralph Bowen might change up the personnel and the configuration from album to album, but the results remain solid. Total Eclipse continues his winning streak.