Stick Figures (Aardvark)
Reviewed by Jay Trachtenberg, Fri., Sept. 12, 2003
Terry BownessStick Figures (Aardvark) A lot's happened musically in the four years since Austin pianist/composer Terry Bowness released his acclaimed, self-titled debut. While that introductory volley was a rather straightforward affair, it's obvious that Bowness, who commands the piano seat in Los Jazz Vatos, has kept his ears opened in the interim, incorporating the ubiquitous influences of hip-hop, jam, and electronica into his musical vision. In that respect, Stick Figures is like two albums in one. Of the eight original compositions, roughly half are extroverted electro-grooves with Bowness alternating between creamy and crunchy modes on his Fender Rhodes piano while getting help from the likes of Blaze leader/stickman Brannen Temple, bass maestro Roscoe Beck, turntablist Nick Nack, and gunslingers David Grissom and Mitch Watkins. The other half of the album is taken almost directly from the ECM playbook of measured, contemplative, spare piano meditations. It results in a dramatic, if not schizophrenic, yin and yang that more often than not works in a surprising, complementary way. There's even a tune, "Asteroids," that combines both schools into a backbeated, icy space journey. Bowness and Watkins sooth this baby to sleep by transforming the not-often-covered Lennon/McCartney jewel "Across the Universe," into a lovely and ethereal lullaby. Four years can be a long time, but this up-to-the-minute project has been worth the wait.