EDWARD BLANCO – ALL ABOUT JAZZ
Published: June 16, 2015
A fixture in the San Francisco Bay Area jazz scene for some time, drummer and composer Bryan Bowman makes his recording debut as leader on Like Minds, a well-crafted eleven-piece musical statement of original contemporary jazz containing a touch of bop, blues and some burning accessible material delivered with a lot of spirit. Hailing from a family of musicians—where father Robert is a classical pianist and Professor Emeritus at CSU Chico and mom plays the cello when not practicing psychology—one can understand the influence music must have had at home and perhaps, the obvious developments of his appreciable talents as musician. His professional experience has led him to tour and record with major jazz artists, perform on piano and serve as a regular accompanist with the California Jazz Conservatory.
Among the many factors that make this album so appealing, is the quintet of excellent world-class cast of players Bowman has chosen to accompany him on this first effort. One will experience the sounds of former New York performer and now Bay Area local, trumpeter Ian Carey doing his best impersonation of Clifford Brown on the opening up tempo bebop number “Pick You Up,” while on the following “The Undone” former child prodigy, pianist Matt Clark and Indiana son and former Seattle mainstay, bassist Doug Miller are featured on solos. The drummer is the other featured player on the latter tune, in which he displays a bit of his more than ample chops on the sticks.
The light and tender ballad “Entitled” features Carey on the Harmonized muted trumpet along with the tasteful play of tenor saxophonist and Berkeley-native, Bob Kenmotsu playing in unison as the modern rock/jazz piece “Restless Boy,” features the pianist and the leader in a solid performances. Bowman introduces the burning post-bop original “Other One,” where the drummer accents the splashing cymbals on another fast-paced sizzler featuring the trumpeter and saxophonist on hot solo shouts.
The music turns south on the soft medium tempo Bossa Nova-styled “Sleeping Cutie” which, turns out to be one of the highlights of the disc featuring Kenmotsu’s delicate tenor voice and Carey on the flugelhorn followed by some handy work on the keys from Clark—all marking this original a keeper worth repeated spins. The group gets into the blues on the angular melody of “Baloo’s” then takes a different approach on the lively upbeat rockish “Upper Hand.”
Bowman pens a homage to Wayne Shorter and Kenny Barron on the melodic medium tempo title track and closes the date with the gorgeous piano trio ballad of “Border,” featuring brisk solos from Miller, Clark on gentle piano lines and the leader on some light expressive brush work. Looking to branch out from his Bay Area roots, drummer Bryan Bowman’s audacious debut may well be the catalyst, the vehicle that this performer rides into the sunset claiming a piece of the jazz landscape all to himself. Clearly, a hidden treasure and a gem of an album, Like Minds shines all over.
Track Listing: Pick You Up; The Undone; Needles Everywhere; Entitled; Restless Boy; Other One; Sleeping Cutie; Baloo’s; Upper Hand; Like Minds; Border.
Personnel: Bryan Bowman: drums; Ian Carey: trumpet, flugelhorn; Bob Kenmotsu: tenor saxophone; Matt Clark: piano; Doug Miller: bass.
Record Label: Self Produced
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Andrew Gilbert – Berkeleyside.com
Published: January 14, 2016
Bryan Bowman and the urge to record
For the vast majority of musicians making an album is a money-losing proposition these days, a time-intensive undertaking that’s hard to justify looking at the bottom line. But the urge to make a statement, the call to document a particular program of music interpreted by a specific cadre of collaborators, is no less potent, which is why drummer/composer Bryan Bowman rounded up some of the region’s finest improvisers for his album Like Minds.
A smart and resourceful accompanist by night and caretaker of his three-year-old son by day, the Albany musician was determined to record a set of his original compositions. “I’m almost 50 and I have this music and want people to know who I am,” says Bowman, who celebrates the release Like Minds at the California Jazz Conservatory 8 p.m. Saturday. “I can go to all these gigs and play standards, which I love, but people don’t really get to know me. It was a bit of an act of desperation.”
Featuring Ian Carey on trumpet and flugelhorn, bassist Doug Miller, pianist Matt Clark, and Berkeley tenor saxophonist Bob Kenmotsu (who are all joining him at the CJC), Like Minds provides the players with consistently singing melodies. Intricate but not busy, Bowman’s tunes are full of striking rhythmic and harmonic details, with playful sidesteps and feints in unexpected directions.
The tunes grew out of Bowman spending a lot of time at the piano, an instrument he’s played since youth. He credits Clark, a first-call pianist who has worked with the likes of Bobby Hutcherson, Laurie Antonioli and Joshua Redman, with helping him fine-tune the tunes.
“Matt and I do a lot of duets together,” Bowman says. “He’s got a kid a little older than my son, and we’ll get together on short notice to jam and play standards. The material was hammered out on the piano. I brought it to Matt and threw a lot of stuff in front of him, and he played it all beautifully. He’s responsible for making this stuff breathe.”
The instrumentation is the classic hard bop line up codified by Miles Davis and Horace Silver in the mid-1950s and not surprisingly Davis serves as an important model for arranging. “The way he uses space is so inspiring, to take a simple tune and make so much,” Bowman says. “Wayne Shorter’s melodies and his strange harmonies are also important for me. I’m not trying to write like that, but I end up writing a melody and then think about setting up harmonies no one’s expecting.”
Born in Los Angeles, Bowman grew up in Chico, where his father Robert E. Bowman was coordinator of the keyboard program at California State University, Chico from 1971-2003. His mother Andrea, a psychologist and cello player, exposed him to a vast array of music through her passion for folk dancing. He’s recorded and performed around the region with Bulgarian accordion master Ivan Milev and Trio Mopmu with Lily Storm.
“My mother turned me on to Bulgarian, Greek, Macedonian and Turkish music, all kinds of great stuff,” he says. “When I was a teenager I thought this was so annoying, all those trebly sounds. But when I got older, I realized what amazing music I was exposed to. That’s how I got into Indian music and ended up studying at Ali Akbar College of Music.”
He moved to the East Bay in the mid-1990s found early inspiration at the jam session saxophonist Harvey Wainapel ran at Sausalito’s No Name Bar with bassist John Wiitala and drummer Kenny Wollesen. (“Kenny changed my life,” he says. “His natural ability and musicality really shook me”). Another jam session at the lamented Berkeley House on University Avenue provided a different creative crucible.
Drum great Donald “Duck” Bailey, who made his mark with Jimmy Smith’s hugely popular organ trio in the mid-1950s, ran the session, and he recruited Bowman for the drum chair “because he wanted to play sax and harmonica,” Bowman recalls. “Howard Wiley was like 12 years old and he’d play all the time. I got some drum lessons from Donald, and gave me good advice about how to practice.”
Being a stay at home dad has provided a new source of inspiration, and many of the tunes on Like Minds evoke childhood (“Pick You Up,” “Restless Boy” and “Baloo’s”). With the album he’s certainly provided his son with an invaluable guide for creative expression. “If there’s anything unique that you have to share,” Bowman says, “you should find a way to share it.”
GEANNINE REID – All About Jazz
Published: July 29, 2015
Drummer and composer Bryan Bowman creates his recording debut with Like Minds, a well-executed set of eleven original compositions falling into the contemporary jazz category with a strong foundation of post-bop. Bowman’s quintet is comprised of: Bob Kenmotsu on tenor saxophone, Ian Carey on trumpet and flugelehorn, Matt Clark on piano and Doug Miller on bass. Opening with an up-tempo, be-bopish number entitled “Pick You Up,” Bowman shows his chops with a style that is a cross between Jeff “Tain” Watts and Max Roach. His playing is conversational and seems to drive each soloist to new areas of exploration. Carey, Kenmotsu and Clark all spin out great solos and the result is an exciting start to a stirring project. “The Undone” is an interesting waltz that finds Bowman granting solo space to everyone, including himself as he conveys strong musical ideas and development all with chops to spare.
Bowman’s penned post-bop original “Other One,” keeps the energy alive and moving with an interesting set of changes that encourage Carey and Kenmotsu to dig deep for melodic and harmonic colors, which they do in multitude. The group settles in on a nice swing feel with the medium tempo blues number set to an angular melody titled, “Baloo’s.” Miller fingers an inventive solo followed by Clark and Kenmotsu. Bowman then trades fours with Carey; leading to Carey soloing and taking the head out, adding up to a highlight track on the disc.
Bowman has a robust debut release with Like Minds, strong in the tradition of post-bop with a cast of players that work well together and bring unique perspectives to Bowman’s excellent compositions. One can certainly liken this recording to the sound of the Jazz Messengers, yet still retaining its own originality with a few surprising twists.
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George Harris – Jazz Times (August 2015)