Ralph Bowen – Power Play – Posi-Tone Records PR8073, 54:52 ****½:
(Ralph Bowen, saxophones; Orrin Evans, piano; Kenny Davis, bass; Donald Edwards, drums)
Having reviewed (and dug) Dedicated in 2009 and Due Reverence in 2010, it was with anticipation that I awaited Ralph’s new CD Power Play, just released last month on Posi-Tone. 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.
Right out of the box, Ralph is all business on the swinger, “K.D.’s Blues.” Bowen can blow either mainstream or flirt with the edge of free blowing but always stays in the pocket. Pianist Evans just keeps on showing his sparkling talents with crisp piano runs and inventive accompaniment. “Drumheller Valley” brings percussive power piano from Evans, and assertive hard driving drum work from Donald Edwards before Bowen takes center stage with strong post bop lines.
“Two-Line Pass” finds the band locked in tight and Kenny Davis’ bass work is strong in the mix, while Bowen takes off spurring his band mates on. It’s a powerful number. “My One and Only Love” is a sweet ballad and Ralph shows off his lyrical side. “Bella Firenze” also shows Bowen’s gift with melodic mood while both Evans and Davis add their instrumental mastery. Orrin has a gift that makes the listener eagerly await his next solo.
“Walleye Jigging” demonstrates the talents of producer Marc Free and engineer Nick O’Toole in continually being spot on with sound mix and superb fidelity that they bring to Posi-Tone releases. Each instrument is upfront and the bass is given air to be heard while the drums, even when strongly assertive, do not overpower the other artists.
“A Solar Romance” ends Power Play with a lovely feeling. Bowen’s quartet delivers big time. Let’s hope 2011 brings another visit from Ralph and company.
TrackList: K.D.’s Blues, Drumheller Valley, Two-Line Pass, My One and Only Love, The Good Shepherd, Bella Firenze, Jessica, Walleye Jigging, A Solar Romance
— Jeff Krow