Kris Bowers, piano
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Kris Bowers (piano) is one of the newest and brightest lights on the jazz landscape. Schooled in jazz and classical music, raised amid the rap and hip-hop of the 1990s, inspired by the cinematic power of the great film composers of recent decades, Bowers’ sound – though rooted in traditional styles – is open to numerous external influences that keep the music fresh and vibrant for a new century. He was learning the rudiments of piano via the Suzuki method by the time he was 4, and taking private lessons at age 9. By the time he reached middle school, he had developed his ear to the point where he could learn the pop music of the day just by turning on a radio, picking up melodies and harmonies, and developing improvisational lines. Inspired by the diversity of music in the world around him and frustrated by the restrictions of his classical training, he threatened to give up the piano, so his parents countered by enrolling him in jazz lessons. High school was a dual musical track for Bowers, who attended the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts while also taking classical and jazz classes at the Colburn School for Performing Arts. After high school, Bowers began his undergraduate studies at Juilliard in 2006. He studied privately with Eric Reed, Fred Hersch, Frank Kimbrough and Kenny Barron. Bowers finished his undergraduate degree at Juilliard and stayed on to earn a masters degree in jazz performance with a concentration in film composition. In September 2011, he won the coveted Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Co-chairs of the program included Madeleine Albright, Quincy Jones, Debra Lee and Colin Powell, and the competition was judged by Herbie Hancock, Ellis Marsalis, Jason Moran, Danilo Perez and Renee Rosnes. A year later, he was hand selected to perform at the 2012 NEA Jazz Masters Awards Ceremony at Jazz at Lincoln Center. His performance included guesting on a rendition of Frank Wess’ “Magic” with jazz masters Benny Golson, Wynton Marsalis, Wess, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. He performed on Watch the Throne, the 2011 collaborative album by hip-hop artists Jay-Z and Kanye West. In addition, he recently composed the score for Seeds of Time, a 2013 documentary by Sandy McCloud about the preservation of naturally occurring seed in an era of genetic engineering in agriculture. Heroes + Misfits, is his ambitious debut album that positions Bowers at the forefront of a talented sextet and showcases a musical and compositional style that – while clearly rooted in the jazz tradition – is also reflective of an eclectic musical age.