Sunday, 17 June 2018

Chris Bowden: new album, rave reviews, a '96 classic reissue, and major hometown gigs. Not bad.

What a difference six months makes - 4,380 little hours...

Half a year ago, I wrapped up a complex two hour documentary, 'The Lost Concert', about alto sax jazz hero Chris Bowden. It's still scoring nice numbers on Brum Radio's listen-again. I built it around an unheard 65 minute live set,  captured by Neil Hillman at the CBSO Centre in 2007. 

Chris's thirty year career has seen amazing highs to go with some desperate lows. He was key to the 90s UK Acid Jazz scene; he helped launch the Heritage Orchestra; he has played with strings of super-influential outfits; he continues to create genre-busting brilliant music.

Now, with a new album, there's been some interesting developments.

The next steps

Since January, things have moved on apace. As I worked on the documentary, Chris was finishing his third solo album, Unlikely Being. It came out to very positive reviews. I went to the album launch gig, and came away invigorated. Driving home listening to the album after the show, the miles flew. 

Then, two months ago, Mostly Jazz festival announced their 2018 line-up. Chris is playing on Sunday afternoon; I approve, hugely. For the shortish set, Chris will bring the same musicians he worked with on the album, all top musos. If you can't make early afternoon on Sunday 8th July at MoJazz, three weeks from this posts' date, Chris and band will also play a full set at the Blue Piano on Saturday 7th July

So, time for a catch-up...
Chris Bowden: In addition to the album, I may possibly add some new material at the Blue Piano gig, where we have the space to stretch out. There might be room for one or two other things as well.
RV: Sounds like you're back to that Catherine wheel of creativity – ideas sparking off in all directions?
Chris: Yes – trying to keep a handle on that! I've been really pleased with the reaction to the album. It's gone really well. And just in it being out, in the internet world, it's created a presence. That means the world. BUT... I'm in that weird position, having done Unlikely Being, it makes me want to do something else now. But people are saying hang on, you need to work this album now! I'm proud of the record...
RV: should be...
Chris:and I stand by it! It sounds like a band. I guess, as I was writing material for the album, I rekindled my interest in small band jazz.

Old wine; a new CD bottle 

Peterson Facebookery
And just this week, the massively influential Gilles Peterson went on Facebook to plug the re-issue of Chris' first album, Time Capsule, from 1996, on SoulJazz records. In Peterson's words, this was the album that connected it all. It still stands up: centred in Jazz, but with orchestral flavours and wild, fertile, daring imaginings, the lot orchestrated by Bowden. Do yourself a favour and check it out. There's a link below to Bandcamp. 

Chris: I'm very pleased; it's very exciting. It means the world to me that it's been acknowledged in such a positive way. I was aware at the time that it was received well – but not to the extent that people talk about it now.

RV: Well, sometimes things build reputations all on their own, through word of mouth. But Gilles Peterson, who you worked with a lot in those days, has been very nice about it, calling it 'the album that connected it all'. That's a hell of a statement...
Chris: It is a hell of a statement, yeah. It's deeply flattering. But it is true in a way - I was being introduced to the London scene: that Gilles Peterson world, and music college, all the bands I was recording with...
RV: I just wonder if you've stirred up something of a ruckus with the release of Unlikely Being, reminding people that you're here, alive and kicking – hence the reissue of Time Capsule?
Chris: I would love to believe that... everything adds up, after all. But there was a question of rights, I gather, after twenty years.
RV: Are you saying that by reissuing the album the current copyright holders have re-asserted their rights?
Chris: Yes. It is a business thing – but it's a very positive business thing. Let's face facts – they wouldn't have made a lot of money of the first release, and they're not going to make a lot of money now. It's not about that!
Well, if nothing else, it means that if you want to check some of Chris' 1996 work on this album, you're not limited to the fragments to be found on YouTube. There's a lot of Bowden to be found online,  but it's not organised in any realistic way - and that's typical of YouTube. The reissue will add some weight, and I am glad of that. The next thing I'd like to see is 'Unlikely Being' on Spotify - it's not on his page, yet. Of course, that won't make Chris any serious money; that's the way of digital business. But it would be another step. 

In the meantime, there's some gigs to look forward to. 


Tickets for the Blue Piano gig on Saturday 7 July , with a full set, and possibly some new material to boot, are at We Got Tickets

Tickets for Mostly Jazz on Sunday 8 July, where Chris plays a shorter afternoon set,  are here; here's the full MoJazz info page on Chris


Check out the full Lost Concert documentary on Brum Radio's site;

There's also an 8-part podcast version on Chris' Spotify page.


Unlikely Being is available here on Bandcamp;  
Time Capsule is available here on Soul Jazz records

See also

This earlier post: Chris Bowden - the story of the story


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