Photo credit: Garry Corbett
Chris Bowden could be said to have peaked early. His 1996 album Time Capsule, on the Soul Jazz label, captured the zeitgeist more completely than many of its contemporaries while certainly sounding like nothing else at the time: it was a compelling amalgam of meticulous exactitude and spacey randomness, sublime in places, confusing in others. And it created quite a stir.
In an extended conversation with UK Vibe’s Mike Gates a couple of years back, Chris said this of what attracted him to the music of Roland Kirk: “…quite accessible but also a little bit out-there in a way. It’s not just obvious, it’s very earthy. And a bit more ‘punk’ maybe. It’s a bit away from men in suits, a bit messier in a way and I liked that.”
It’s not a bad description of what appeals in his own music. His alto playing is hugely exciting, reflecting perhaps an amalgam of his two greatest influences, Charlie Parker and Michael Brecker, and his commitment to the music is never short of absolute.
It would be six years before a follow-up to Time Capsule would be released: Slightly Askew on the Ninja Tune label, a similarly impressive multi-layered album of sometimes immense scope and sound.
Since then, in amongst tours with the The Herbaliser and working with 4Hero and Heritage Orchestra among others, interspersed with various time-out periods while struggling with drug addiction, Chris’s own gigs have tended to be in a trio with long-time fellow Birmingham associates, Ben Markland on bass and Neil Bullock on drums.
Now Chris has a new quartet: Bullock is still there on drums, but is joined by Jim Watson on piano and keyboards, and Chris Dodd on bass. Their album, Unlikely Being, with guest appearances from trumpeter Bryan Corbett and percussionist Tom Chapman, is released on Wednesday and will be launched that evening at Stratford Riverside (details below).
Expect to read a CD review of Unlikely Being on this site before too long.
LINKS: Wednesday’s launch gig
UK Vibe interview