Heroes + Misfits is Kris Bowers’ ambitious debut recording for Concord Jazz Records. The recording spotlights the award-winning pianist as the leader of a very talented sextet which consists of alto saxophonist Casey Benjamin, tenor saxophonist Kenneth Whalum III, guitarist Adam Agati, bassist Burniss Earl Travis II, and drummer Jamire Williams. Guest vocalists Julia Easterlin, Jose James and Chris Turner also lend their creativity on four of the album’s 10 tracks.
All of the songs heard on Heroes + Misfits were composed by Kris Bowers with the exception of “Wake the Neighbors,” “Forget-er,” and “Ways of Light.” Bowers collaborated with Adam Agati, Julie Easterlin and Jose James on those three songs and also employed Jeremie Harris to provide poetry for four other songs. Bowers’ compositional integrity shines throughout this exemplary album. He seems to internalize rhythm and melody so as not to disassociate the two at a deeper musical level. The phrasing, articulation, inflections and accents during the musician’s solos reveals that Bowers’ compositions are vibrant vehicles for their artful improvisation.
There is no confusion between culture and achievement as Bowers clearly has a master’s knowledge of his art, classical music, and early jazz which was acquired from parental influences and his inherent talent straight through his graduate studies at Julliard and private studies with such great jazz pianists as Eric Reed, Fred Hersch, Frank Kimbrough and Kenny Barron.
While listening to the album, you dear listener, will experience his mastery on the opening track titled “Forever Spring.” Although penned as a brief interlude, this beauty is a sure example of his artistic qualities as a classical pianist. From there he launches into “Wake the Neighbors” a jazz/rock piece that showcases Adam Agati’s guitar chops and Bowers’ justified skills on the synthesizer. The remaining songs prove that Heroes+Misfits is an inspired work of art that swings, grooves, and gives off warmth, personality and most of all, great jazz performances.