Jonathan Rowden is a name to watch as a signature voice and self-motivated organizer...The formidable saxophonist and bandleader has found success by creating opportunities outside the usual mainstream channels.
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Los Angeles-based saxophonist and bandleader Jonathan Rowden is making some notable noise as a worthy player and conceptualist way out west, to quote Sonny Rollins. His group’s aptly named debut, Becoming, is a mix of unabashed emotionality, compositional breadth and occasional flights of free-ish fancy, adding up to an intriguing introductory mission statement from a West Coaster with something fresh to say and play.
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Jonathan Rowden Group, Becoming: Captivating album by the quartet of saxophonist Rowden, pianist (and keys) Ryan Pryor, bassist Chris Hon, and drummer James Yoshizawa, who also throws some pandeiro and bodhran into the mix. It’s a recording that goes through plenty of changes, and that may be the ingredient that most contributes to this being such a winning album. It opens with some avant-garde, moves into a straight-ahead post-bop, then a three-part suite that comports itself like a chamber jazz outing, moves into a bit of spiritual jazz, and then ends with some tracks that settle in with the modern jazz-indie rock fusion. One of those albums that is terribly arresting throughout, and then when it’s over, it’s suddenly revealed how much damn fun it was, too.
By pulling it together from sources equally from jazz and non-jazz worlds and an attention to sound over scoring, Becoming transcends simply being a set of songs to rise to the level of ‘becoming’ this breathing, ardent entity. The Jonathan Rowden Group achieves spiritual unity uncommon in much of jazz today and even rarer in a debut album.
Reflecting Rowden’s wide breadth of influences, the album is moody and features a lot of textural playing contrasted with driving rhythms. The use of space and the sonic shaping on the album’s opening number, “Becoming,” are remarkable and reminiscent of modern, forward thinking pop and rock artists like Radiohead while the harmony and interplay suggest a classical influence”...”This connectedness gives the album the feel of being one composition and is again suggestive of Rowden’s compositional style and influences, likely coming from his interest in classical music. Be on the lookout for this up and coming group, who are finishing up their first West Coast tour and will undoubtedly be looking forward to more new and exciting things in the near future.Full review at http://www.allaboutjazz.com/jonathan-rowden-group-becoming-jonathan-rowden-orenda-records-review-by-paul-naser.php#.U5tmLflzkYI
What a terrific set, the first “song” lasted about 40 minutes...[they] being able to move seamlessly in and out of different more structured compositions using free improvisation. I was amazed...and felt no ache of time passing, but instead rode along the trip with them, in total happiness!
The Los Angeles jazz scene has no shortage of prodigious talent...young tenor saxophonist Jonathan Rowden definitely belongs to this society.”
Experimentation with timbre and texture was a theme of the evening and is one of the group’s strong suits... [a] superb ability to create captivating soundscapes.
Rowden sounds great and is writing some creative things – he’s one of the good younger players.