Graham Reid | | 3 min read
reviewers find words lifted from their articles as a banner for
companies seem the main offenders in this: l’ve sometimes written
unfavourable reviews of a movie only to see a few judiciously
selected words like “an emotional rollercoaster ride” lifted out
of a sentence which in full read, “a dreary emotional rollercoaster
ride you wouldn't want to take”
guess that’s called turning a negative into a positive.
however, the sentence appears in full and so you are inclined to
believe it without resorting to an internet search for verification.
When I saw a sentence from the UK alt.music magazine The Wire describe English saxophonist/composer Chris Bowden’s new album l took it at face value. l'd heard the album and figured whoever wrote it was on the same wavelength as me.
And it's always comforting to have a
critic agree with you; it means you were both right and they are an
excellent critic -- right up until you disagree with them. Then
Wire’s sentence headed the slight promo sheet which accompanied
Bowden’s latest album, Slightly Askew. It read: “Anyone who
thinks ‘jazz’ is a dirty word should be forced to listen to Chris
Bowden, he is jazz for the next generation.”
l’d disagree with a couple of things there: no one should be forced
to listen to any kind of music (God forbid we should have fascists
who believe music is somehow inherently morally uplifting or good for
you), and that he is jazz for the “next generation”.
the best of all possible worlds he is jazz for any generation.
example the massive, occasionally abrasive and woozy opener on
Slightly Askew, the lengthy Only Angst, sounds in places as if some
of Count Basie's band had dropped by a funky, free-jazz New York
nightclub and -- after a few drinks and what George Harrison so
charmingly called “jazz cigarettes" -- had decided to sit in.
following track, 19 swirling minutes of Crockers and Killers, might
open with a gorgeously airy soulful vocal by Liz Parkes, but busts
out into swing of the old style before dissolving into what a 70s
rock guitarist might have called a “wig-out’ before resuscitating
itself into horn-driven funk with a wittering flute.
cool, and not a little challenging.
much more to Bowden’s album, even if there are only four angular,
unpredictable and muscular tracks. But each spins off in various
directions, are sometimes punctuated by samples, and you can hear why
people have likened Bowden’s arrangements to those by Gil Evans
(except, you should be warned, by an Evans with a totally different
doesn’t record under his own name that often - his last album was
Time Capsule back in 1996 - but has been around the margins, and
sometimes at centrestage, in UK jazz for a long time.
is a producer and arranger, has worked on drum'n'bass projects,
toured with American funk artists (he really pulls out those funky
roots in Slightly Askew's closer W’p De f’n’ doo‘), and has
played with Basement Jaxx and Herbaliser.
of that diverse background he carves these four epic tracks (average
length a diverting 19 minutes) which in places remind of a less
harmolodic treatment of Ornette Coleman's heavily orchestrated Skies
have pointed to the Art Ensemble Of Chicago but that reference sits
slightly uncomfortably, this is much less free than their exploratory
also calls on excellent, sympathetic players and pianist Jim Watson
is the quiet star here. His skittered runs, geometric comping in the
manner of Thelonious Monk or even Cecil Taylor, and blink ‘n’
miss-it melodic delicacy which also recalls Bill Evans, make this
excellent album a repeat-play item.
Slightly Askew? More than that at times, but in a dull year for jazz this is a major discovery. And jazz for any generation I think.
The Guardian reviewer gave it his first five stars
rating this year.
critic right on the money, and someone it’s impossible to disagree
with . . . until he gets it way wrong.