Album Review of

Written by Joe Ross
December 31, 2023 - 9:53am EST
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Chicago-based Bowmanville started out as an acoustic Gypsy jazz quintet in 2015, but their debut album on StonEagleMusic shows that they have embraced a more electric and eclectic sound influenced by wide variety of genres from jazz to swing and blues to rock. The players demonstrate high caliber musicality. I particularly liked the conversational interplay of Ethan Adelsman’s violin with Graham Nelson’s harmonica. Nelson also provides his unique, soulful vocal swagger on “Georgia,” “Fly Me to the Moon” and “St. James Infirmary.” The ensemble’s stellar rhythm section includes Mason Jiller (guitar), Oliver Horton or Ethan Philion (upright bass) and Noah Plotkin (drums), and they shine on their improvised solos too. Jiller composed “Metal Bird” and proves himself a fluid yet precise improviser with great speed and dexterity. 

With an adventurous flair, Bowmanville demonstrates their influence of legends like Louis Armstrong, Django Reinhardt, Toots Thielemans, and Stephane Grappelli. Their sidewalk café music has nostalgic elements but also puts another foot firmly into contemporary territory. Covers of songs like a surreal “Caravan” and more conventional “La Vie en Rose” have interpretive twists and turns that create some wonderful jazz, swing and blues mojo.

Bowmanville’s originals, such as “Annie & Me,” “Metal Bird,” “Boiano Campobasso,” “Helen’s Theme” and “Weapons of Mass Distraction” are garnering considerable airplay too, especially in the Chicago area. It’s no surprise that Bowmanville’s album achieved the #1 spot on The Roots Music Report's Top 50 Contemporary Jazz Album Chart in early December 2023. 

A powerhouse combo, Bowmanville has effervescent stylings that transcend your typical Hot Club jazz band. Their cohesive collaboration and friendship impart a lot of bounce and pizzazz to their arrangements of engaging, tastefully-rendered music with joie de vivre. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)