BECOMING

by Jonathan Rowden Group

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  • Compact Disc (CD)

    This is a pre-order of the deluxe CD version of our May 2014 studio release "BECOMING". This item comes with a high quality 6-panel digipack with liner notes/photo booklet from the session - all created by Eron Rauch.

    Recorded on February 19th at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, the album is slated for release on May 27th, 2014.

    Includes unlimited streaming of BECOMING via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    ships out within 2 days

     $15 USD or more

     

  • Record/Vinyl

    This is a limited edition, high-fidelity vinyl recording of the album "Becoming". Only one production, limited pressing.

    Includes unlimited streaming of BECOMING via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    ships out within 3 days
    edition of 150 

     $25 USD

     

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about

Liner Notes:
When you walk into a place like Sunset Sound in Hollywood, CA, it’s impossible not to breathe the air of history. How many countless albums, classics, and great artists have laid down their testaments in the same room, on the same mics and keys, through the same board? It can be daunting, exciting, and sobering all at once!

Recording one’s debut album is no small task, and in such surroundings, a musician of lesser mettle might fold under the pressure, or come out clean without a sweat or scratch. But for the artist of true grit, it’s a chance to dive into the fire and become something greater; a moment to step into the canon of musical history and stack your voice amongst the annals of recorded music. And it’s a chance to find out who you really are.

Jonathan Rowden is a man of relentless drive and enthusiasm, whose distinct voice as a saxophonist and composer is continuously becoming. Together with writing partner and pianist Ryan Pryor, bassist Chris Hon, and drummer James Yoshizawa, he’s developed an approach to the performance of their unique songbook that allows their music to expand infinitely with every performance.

As the Jonathan Rowden Group, the band has embraced an aesthetic where any of their tunes can flow into one another via transitional improvisation, creating suites of music that can last an entire set. Without necessarily being “programmatic” their music takes on a symphonic scope and allows for a true listening journey, arched over a variety of moods and grooves. Rowden muses:

“People say that the real 'meat' of Beethoven was in his transitions - melodies and progressions were beautiful but the transitions show off his real prowess as a composer. That's how I see the transitional material and free improvisations that we do: moments in the compositions that are like the underlying fabric of the music, whereas the space surrounding the songs gives us a way to go anywhere, and really take the music to the next level, proving a unity between otherwise disparate ideas, forms, and sounds.”

In recording "Becoming" the Jonathan Rowden Group took their performance to a new level. After a first round of takes, the group, upon listening back, realized the need for growth, threw caution to the wind, and entered a deeply creative space, utilizing everything from their own breath to trinkets and toys laying around the studio. Rearranging, splitting up sections, and completely reworking their approach, the music became something much greater and deeper than they had previously considered possible.

“The experience we all shared during that 12 hour lockout was a sort of aesthetic anamnesis: when we were done, we couldn't overcome the feeling that before this, we didn't really know what these songs were about, despite having written them and performed them for months. It was like discovering something that had always been there, like a memory we didn’t have eyes to see.” (Rowden)

What resulted was a completely different product than they had set out to make, but one that reached a clearer, more poignant level of expression. Ryan Pryor remembers:

“I believe that what this music became that day in the studio is direct yet enigmatic, pastoral yet metropolitan, unabashedly and optimistically sleek and modern yet lived in and unpolished. When I listen to what we recorded, I sense reconciliation between a yearning for the future and modernity, and nostalgia for simpler days before the influx of smart phones and social media; two things I previously thought were contradictory desires to experience simultaneously.”

This sense of balance is the truth of “becoming.” By embracing the dramatic and disparate pendulum of our thoughts, emotions, desires, and fears, we can let go and experience a sense of calm and clarity that transcends ambition. Ironically we cut deeper, fly faster, and make music with more passion when we release our attachments and just play!

“Actively participating in the moment - the sound, energy, and momentum - stepping into the character of these pieces was like taking a deep breath and ‘being’ for a moment - and finding that is what becoming really is.” (Rowden)

With this album, a bold debut to be sure, the Jonathan Rowden Group makes the tenacious claim that an album can be more than just a snapshot of band - it can shatter their intentions propel them to greater self-discovery and realization. And with "Becoming" as a point of departure, one can only imagine what they will become next!

— Daniel Rosenboom

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Press Release
Tenor Saxophonist Jonathan Rowden
Releases his Debut Album
Becoming
May 27, 2013 on Orenda Records

Featuring Pianist Ryan Pryor, Bassist Chris Hon
and Drummer James Yoshizawa


A motivating factor for many artists is the desire for self-expression, a need to represent either explicitly or through abstraction the philosophy and/or biography of one's life.  With the release of Southern California-based tenor saxophonist Jonathan Rowden's debut album, Becoming, he manages to do so in one concise, dramatic, heartfelt gesture.

The Jonathan Rowden Group represents a growing trend in Los Angeles towards music which draws upon elements of modernism fused with an aesthetic edge prevalent in much of today's music regardless of genre, following the lead of signature groups like the piano trio The Bad Plus and proto-jazz band Kneebody, which came to notoriety in LA.  Becoming runs without pause through its entirety as a through-composed piece with an intentional flight path through extreme hard-hitting highs and sublime lows, undergirded with meticulous attention to texture and color, resulting in a satisfying emotional catharsis at its conclusion.

When asked to define his sound, Rowden, like many artists, remains elusive.  "I kind of view it as making music in 3-D, viewing history in 3-D.  We're surrounded by all this (music), and we need to pick and choose…we're just trying to write and play music that feels right and sounds good, and sometimes that leads to more surprising moments."  Indeed, in Rowden's own saxophone playing there are hints of an expansive tableau of influences, from late Coltrane and Eric Dolphy, to Michael Brecker and Joshua Redman.  Yet it would be difficult to pigeonhole his playing or his new album, maybe because they are pointing towards unexplored territory.

Two titles from the album appear to encapsulate the current state of mind of Rowden, who will celebrate his 30th birthday in the fall yet is a relative newcomer to the increasingly revitalized Los Angeles creative jazz community; the title track Becoming and the three-part suite The Long Road Home, with both titles serving (perhaps inadvertently) to summarize his circuitous route to finding his calling as a jazz musician.

Rowden had his first saxophone lessons at age seven, but he stopped within a year when his family relocated from Seattle to California.  It wouldn't be until college when he would rediscover jazz and the saxophone and resume lessons, abandoning his prior intention to become a comic book artist.  Despite the late restart, Rowden is now negotiating a strong foothold within the music scene, beginning to explore collaborations with many of the best jazz musicians in Los Angeles, and was offered the opportunity to release his debut on the new Los Angeles based creative music label, Orenda Records.  It's a good fit for Rowden, as Orenda is positioning itself to be the leading advocate for some of the more exploratory forms of jazz in Los Angeles.

Becoming was recorded at the historic Sunset Sound Recording Studio in Hollywood, where artists ranging from Walt Disney to the Doors to Van Halen once recorded.  The players on the album are all current members of the Jonathan Rowden Group, which has been together for the past year.  The individuals in the group are now integral to the sound of the group, with the four of them nearly inseparable from the music.  As Rowden says, "There are no subs in this band."  Pianist/keyboardist Ryan Pryor was a classmate of Rowden's in college and a gifted pianist and excellent jazz and electronic music composer.  Of Pryor, Rowden reminisces about the time they first played, "I secretly hoped he would have me in his quartet because I liked his music so much…but I just got a quartet together and had him come in, and asked him if we could play some of his music too."  In their live shows the band devotes a significant amount of time to Pryor's compositions, one of which (the sprightly tune Autonation) appears on this record.  Bassist Chris Hon at age 21 is the youngest member of the group but has become Rowden's go-to player, as he says Hon is "probably the most creative bass player I've gotten to play with on a regular basis."  Drummer James Yoshizawa is the son of Masukazu Yoshizawa, one of the foremost Japanese-American scholars of ancient and modern Japanese traditional music.  The younger Yoshizawa has his father's exemplary musical instincts, yet he is forging his own way through his mastery of jazz and orchestral percussion.  "James tries to play things that are not the established way of playing…he's really in connection with the timbre of all the instruments he plays."

Rowden's opinion of his drummer is high enough that he wrote for and features Yoshizawa on the three-part suite The Long Road Home, about an especially difficult year the saxophonist had, the centerpiece of his travails being the miscarriage of his first child.  (Rowden's wife, Rachyl, recently gave birth to their new baby girl, Avery.)  Yet the title could also describe the extensive sojourn back home to his initial love of jazz and the saxophone, finally becoming the artist he was destined to be.  His journey becomes literal this summer when Rowden takes his band up the long road of I-5 to his hometown of Seattle, where he will perform with the very same saxophone teacher who gave him his first lesson.  It's the beginning of a West Coast tour from May 26 to June 5, with stops at newly popular jazz venues like The Royal Room in Seattle, Duende in Oakland, with the tour culminating with an engagement in Los Angeles at the universally acclaimed and beloved jazz establishment Blue Whale. In Rowden's case, the road was indeed long but true, proof that one really can go home again.

-Gary Fukushima
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credits

released 27 May 2014

Recorded on February 19th, 2014 at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, CA

Produced by Daniel Rosenboom with Alex Chaloff and Jonathan Rowden
Sound Engineered by Alex Chaloff and Morgan Stratton
Mixed by Daniel Rosenboom at Orenda Sound Labs, Los Angeles, CA
Mastered by Stephen Marsh and Fernando Lee, Marsh Mastering, Hollywood Hills, CA
Artwork, Photographs and Original Design by Eron Rauch

All music* (except "Autonation") composed by Jonathan Rowden (ASCAP)
© Jonathan Rowden Music (ASCAP), 2014
"Autonation" composed by Ryan Pryor (BMI)
© RPJazz (BMI), 2014
*"27-1" inspired by a theme by J. Duff Rowden
All rights reserved.

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about

Jonathan Rowden Los Angeles, California

Described as a unique new talent who has emerged the surface of the diverse Los Angeles jazz scene, Jonathan Rowden is a jazz saxophonist & composer that strives for a vision of improvised music that spans beyond traditional genres under the jazz umbrella, and explores new territory, drawing from his eclectic taste and background in classical, pop, rock, jazz, and many styles in-between. ... more

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