Imagine a movie starring Fred Astaire and Lena Horne, and directed by Federico Fellini. In your mind’s ear, listen to the soundtrack, a mélange of Brazilian samba, psychedelic rock, romantic compositions, and impressionistic lyrics. The music perfectly captures the elegance, earthiness, and otherworldliness of the film.
Now, for a reality check: the film was never made but if there was a movie, this would be the soundtrack. When St. Louis-based drummer/composer, Kevin Bowers, went on a deep and deepening trip through Spain, he also went on an epiphanic creative journey. He’s returned with Nova (to be released August 9th) a tropical, trippy and rocking album with a surprise smattering of Bosa Nova influenced by the great Jorge Ben and Gilberto Gil.
“Brazilian music is something I’ve always had a passion for,” Bowers confesses. “I studied Brazilian drumming at Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA. I even had the privilege of traveling to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil with some close friends to soak up its culture. After a trip to Spain, I began writing the album. I was heavily inspired, even hypnotized, by the music, people, art, and food of Spain.”
Bowers is one of St. Louis’ most respected drummers. He’s been featured in the iconic publication Modern Drummer. Recently, his soul-punk band, The Feed, issued a critically acclaimed album. To date, he’s released three vibrant solo albums. His latest, Nova, gathers some of the finest rock, blues and jazz musicians (and friends) in St. Louis. Together, they manage to croon like Tony Bennett, pop like Sergio Mendes and vibrate like the Beatles at their most lysergic.
Nova’s overarching concept is the adventures/misadventures of two globetrotting characters. Though Bowers is a drummer by trade, he composed the music and vocal melodies on the electric guitar. In addition to this loose-knit narrative, Bowers was also inspired by other artists and movies. He cites a cross-section of influences such as Gal Costa’s 1969 album, Tony Bennett’s The Beat of My Heart, The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, short stories by Anton Chekhov, and Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita.
Drumming fans will feast on Bowers’ jaw-dropping exotic and virtuosic performances as a solo performer and as an ensemble player. On Nova he makes use of several Brazilian instruments, including surdo, repinique, tamborim, chocalhos (Brazilian shakers), timbales, bongos, and congas, among percussion tools. “It was a challenge performing all the percussion parts and making the songs sound like there are 10 people playing together,” he confides.
Standout songs on Nova include the sun-kissed bossa nova track “Two Vagabond Lovers,” the invigoratingly percussive “Ground Motion,” and the imaginatively arranged “Lady Day Fortune.” The album is bookended by an English and then a French version of “Two Vagabond Lovers.” This track sets up the beginning of the story which is sung by the first pair of male and female narrators. “Ground Motion” is a euphoric chant song that highlights Bowers gifts for simple anthemic melodies and ground-shaking percussion arrangements. Nova’s psychedelic side is exemplified by “Lady Day Fortune” which opens with a majestic piano solo, then slips into a moody pop track, before floating away with freak-out guitar figures.
Bowers plans to tour Nova with a white-gloved presentation like a supper club experience with some playful surprises. For live performances, the band will vary in size between a lush orchestral lineup and an intimate quartet. These shows will feature the Nova album played in its entirety, along with some favorites from Bowers’ back catalog. The record release party will be at Off Broadway in Kevin’s hometown of St. Louis on August 11th.
Two Vagabond Lovers
Sofía (Walking With Her Shadow)
Without A Sound
Forward Rhythm Agenda
Wrong Side Of The Tracks
Lady Day Fortune
Breaking For Conversation
The Last Night In June
Intuition (Someday, Someday)
Two Vagabond Lovers (French Version)