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Slightly Askew

Chris Bowden Audio CD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: 13.09 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Product details

  • Audio CD (3 Jun 2002)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Ninja Tune
  • ASIN: B0000646MQ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 11,370 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Only Angst
2. Crockers And Killers
3. ZOO ZOO
4. W'p De f'n' doo

Product Description

Amazon.co.uk

This masterful work is more off-kilter than its Slightly Askew title promises. It's the long-awaited follow-up to Time Capsule, the 1996 debut from this Birmingham-based alto saxophonist, composer and arranger. Between discs, Bowden has worked with 4Hero, Basement Jaxx and The Herbaliser, as well as leading his own jazz trio.

The opening "Only Angst" might send a few jackrabbits running; its discordant catharsis shaped by blaring horns, swirling strings and scrambled vocal samples. Everything's spilling in at once as Bowden's alto writhes at the centre, jazz flecked with soul, leading this lumbering powerhouse as it crushes all in its path. All four numbers are around 15 minutes long, but not a moment is wasted. Perversely, "Crockers And Killers" would have made a more commercial opener, with Liz Parkes' soulful vocal hanging around a slow-ish drum 'n' bass skip, subtle brass shadings surrounding flute, bass and alto solos. The halting slog of "ZOO ZOO" transports straight back to the 70s, horn ranks pecking around its flappy funk muscle. Then, to close out, "W'p De f'n' Doo" lunges straight into a sax-drums tussle, then coasts into a breezy Latin piano solo, followed by a dense percussion work-out. An instant classic...--Martin Longley

BBC Review

Six years...six long years since Time Capsule, an album of angular strings, methodical bass, Rhodes, longform and brief pieces. Saxophonist Bowden played great solos, but wasn't audible on every track;Time Capsule still comes on like a never-released recording date from an alternative 1973.

What happened between then and now? I heard occasional things, the wonderful 12" collaboration with 4 Hero, much too brief appearances on their Two Pages and Creating Patterns albums (which left me wanting much more). Since then he's been playing with the likes of Jessica Lauren and the Herbaliser.

And now Slightly Askew crashes in (almost literally!). The wind arrangement of "Only Angst" comes on like an angry squall when you didn't pack a mac, you're nowhere near any shelter and you're soaked in seconds flat. Then just to confuse you the rain stops as suddenly as it started, the sun comes out: Bowden's sax is inching and forming shapes as the drums walk him and you along.You're beginning to dry out and along comes another squall. You're buffeted by loads of things borne by that wind; organ, trumpet, saxes, piano.

Drums are nervous, metallic, edgy, there's no taking anything for granted; when things quiet down you have to prepare yourself for that cacophonous onslaught returning. Best not to stand near any steep drops when listening to this one. 14 minutes on from pressing the play button and I'm worn out.

What a way to come back! Why's he been away so long? "Crockers and Killers" eases up a little bit; there's still those metallic drums, strings weaving in and out, but the bass is more to the fore and married with piano and female voice; the impression is lyrical. "Zoo Zoo" is more funky, strident, with gloriously angular (or askew?) string and wind arrangements. The first two and a half minutes of "W'p De F' N' Doo" is a duet between Bowden's sax and Tom Gordon's drums until strings, bass and piano join and add a cushioning warmth.

My first impression of this album was that the sound seemed to be strangely not of this time. There's a hell of a lot happening on Slightly Askew's four tracks: many different episodes, musical details; it's not a blowing session, solos are part of a bigger picture and occur where the logic of the music dictates. This is jazz where the zz's of the word are the teeth of a saw; at times cutting smoothly, at times rasping through knots.

This is not polite dinner jazz, thank goodness. It's ambitious, thinking music not afraid of expressing feeling. Chris Bowden is one of the UK's great altoists and composers; Slightly Askew underlines this. Pleeeeeease don't take so long next time Mr Bowden. --Colin Buttimer

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid, Jackson. 19 Aug 2002
By A Customer
Format:Audio CD
Beautiful big band jazz with a real contemporary feel, as you'd probably expect from a Ninja Tune signing. Chris Bowden is a highly skilled writer and arranger with a knack for picking good musicians to work with. There's no shortage of them either, the expected horn and rhythm sections complemented by vocalists and strings. The album has just four pieces, which gives the music chance to move and develop, and for the musicians collectively and in solos to really stretch the material. At times mellow, then relentless, with echoes of everything from 70s thriller soundtracks to a hint of Zappa in the arrangements, it's a glorious racket from start to finish. This isn't polite dinner party music: its eclectic inventiveness sometimes demands your attention, and thoroughly deserves it.
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