Ralph Bowen

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Dedicated Review

by Alex Henderson

Some ridiculous things have been said about the Young Lions of hard bop and/or post-bop who emerged in the '80s and '90s. At one extreme are the bop snobs and jazz purists who claim that the Young Lions saved jazz from extinction (which is ridiculous). At the other extreme are the avant-garde musicians who argue that because the Young Lions are decidedly retro, their work has no artistic value (which is equally ridiculous). But the truth is that the Young Lions have their place just as free jazz, fusion, and Dixieland musicians have their place -- and one Young Lion who has done his share of solid work since the '80s is Ralph Bowen. Dedicated doesn't break any new stylistic ground for the tenor saxophonist, whose playing continues to be influenced by John Coltrane, Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, and Michael Brecker. Bowen remains a derivative player, but he is pleasingly derivative -- and this time, he leads a pianoless quintet that includes trumpeter Sean Jones, guitarist Adam Rogers, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Antonio Sanch├ęz. All of those musicians serve Bowen well on a post-bop session that finds him playing original material exclusively. Although some of Bowen's previous albums have included a few standards, he isn't nearly as standards-obsessed as other Young Lions have been -- which is probably for the best because Bowen is in very good form on "Canary Drums," "Quaiyam," and other originals. Every piece that Bowen wrote for this album is dedicated to someone he considered a mentor along the way. For example, Bowen dedicates "Pat" to saxophonist Pat La Barbera (drummer Joe La Barbera's older brother) and "E.R." to saxophonist Eugene Rousseau. Dedicated is a consistently enjoyable demonstration of Bowen's skills as both a saxophonist and a composer.

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