Heroes And Misfits / Kris Bowers
Label: CONCORD JAZZ INC.
Pianist, composer, and arranger Kris Bowers' debut album, 2014's Heroes + Misfits, is an expansive and ambitious work that showcases the Juilliard-trained artist's genre-defying skills. Based in jazz but with an ear for contemporary R&B, film scores, and electronic music, Bowers is somewhat of an amiable iconoclast. Raised on his parent's old-school soul albums and '90s hip-hop and trained since high school in jazz and classical piano, Bowers is certainly a wunderkind of sorts, able to cross musical boundaries with ease. And crossing boundaries is exactly what Bowers does on Heroes + Misfits, delving into an elegiac, vocal-driven R&B ballad ("WonderLove") one minute and improvising over a fractured, post-punk dance beat ("Wake the Neighbors") the next. In many ways, he doesn't so much cross boundaries as mash them together, creating wholly original soundscapes. Songs like "Vices and Virtues" and "Drift" reveal a compositional ear grounded in harmonically sophisticated jazz that's as much influenced by the contemporary avant-garde Knitting Factory scene as it is by the classic works of artists like John Coltrane and Oscar Peterson. Elsewhere, on tracks like the opening "Forever Spring" and "Forever Wonder," Bowers mixes the hypnotic ambient style of classical composers like Steve Reich and Phillip Glass with a synth-based style that's reminiscent of '70s Stevie Wonder. Ultimately, with Heroes + Misfits, Bowers presents a world of musical eclecticism, where jazz is merely the jumping-off point to further explorations of sound.