There’s no word in the bio information accompanying Bowmanville’s rootsy, stylish and often hard swinging self-titled debut if the popular six-piece Chicago based ensemble’s intriguing name has any connection to the actual city of Bowmanville, Ontario.
Yet as we ponder the actual origin, violinist, leader and main composer Ethan Adelsman, harmonica master and soul-blues vocalist Graham Nelson and the gang take us on a wildly surreal sonic adventure that artfully and furiously blends the sensual and dynamic retro-hipness of Django Reinhardt’s Quintet of the Hot Club of France with spry trad jazz grooves and sensibilities and the gritty soul of authentic Chicago styled blues.
While there are myriad highlights on a set that balances six originals (mostly penned by Adelsman) and delirious re-imaginings of everything from “Fly Me To the Moon” and “Saint James Infirmary” to a sensual, swaying “La Vie En Rose,” perhaps the best example of Bowmanville’s cool camaraderie and slick solo tradeoffs is the spritely opener “Annie & Me” – which begins with snappy dialogue between Adelsman’s infectious violin and Nelson’s harmonica punch, includes dazzling solos by guitarist Mason Jiller and bassist Oliver Horton and includes later improv spotlights for Nelson and Adelsman.
Other tunes offer compelling spotlights for individual members, from the Jiller-composed “Metal Bird” (featuring him at his high-octane solo best) to “Georgia” (a tour de force for Nelson’s molasses vocals and snazzy harmonica) and “Weapons of Mass Distraction” (also Nelson, but with the others crashing the raucous party). Another highlight is Bowmanville’s rumbling, atmosphere-laden blues burn through Ellington’s evergreen “Caravan.”