Heroes + Misfits
The 2011 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition winner, Kris Bowers, brings together a variety of musical interests on his striking debut, Heroes + Misfits. Bowers is a product of classical and jazz training, but he also contributed to Jay Z and Kanye West’s Watch the Throne and has written for films. “Forever Spring” opens the album on an ambient note, as Bowers spins out quietly dramatic acoustic piano lines amid birdsong and subtle electronics. “Wake the Neighbors” moves back and forth between sections featuring Adam Agati’s dirty guitar and passages that evoke Brad Mehldau's pop-inflected jazz. On “#TheProtester,” Bowers turns in an Eastern-colored solo as he's driven by the ace rhythm section of bassist Burniss Earl Travis II and drummer Jamire Williams. Singer Julia Easterlin, who recalls Björk, is backed by layers of her own backing vocals on “Forget-er.” “Drift” features artfully clattering drums and nice work by tenor saxophonist Kenneth Whalum III and alto saxophonist Casey Benjamin. The brief solo piano piece “First” leads into the lovely and pared-down “Ways of Light,” where the extraordinary Jose James shines on vocals.