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Low Down, No Good by Bill Prouten

Low Down, No Good Down Right Nasty, no, this is not how I would describe the debut CD by Canadian tenor saxophonist Bill Prouten. As much as the CD cover might indicate this is some back woods Canadian hick, such is not the case. This is an American educated, master musician. He holds a masters degree from the University of Southern California in Jazz Performance. His saxophone playing and his composing are very good. He has a wonderful tenor tone, soothing, soulful and distinctly his own, with trace amounts of Hawkins and early Coltrane. The tone of his compositions are varied, ranging from the blues through to contemporary jazz with a dash of world flavours to keep it interesting. Adding to the interest is a fantastic rhythm section that adds excitement and sonic beauty. The recording is made up of eight original Prouten compositions and each one is a delight.

Mr. Prouten is joined on the recording by a group of Canadian first call musicians, Robi Botos (piano), Mike Downes (bass), and Ted Warren (drums). The band supports Mr. Prouten with wonderful accompaniment. On the song "Unbalanced" a tune that uses shifting time signatures; Robi Botos plays a most stirring piano solo. A swinging number with a Latin feel. Mr. Botos is given free reign to explore the melody, he creates complex harmonies; he flows smoothly, running the keyboard in every direction. He’ll play heavy handed chords with one hand as glissandos rip up and down the keyboard until they gracefully spill over into the bridge and a Ted Warren drum fill kicks out a syncopated statement of dynamic checks and balances. The quartet picks up the energy, a quick change from a 5/4 feel to a swinging up tempo 4/4. A neat ride through the bridge and with saxophone screaming tastefully in a joyful refrain the band stops on one.

The most popish sounding song is "An Aire For Claire". With a smooth as silk intro in a ballad format, the song has a familiar sound. A catchy melody that speaks clearly of joy and love. Prouten sensuously caresses the melody through a few verses of tenor magic, gradually building in dynamic, a faster tempo, his tenor sings clearly with lyrical statements, bright colours and a full bodied tone. He takes a wild ride up to a transition where Mike Downes takes over and brings the song back to earth. Downes on acoustic bass produces soothing sounds, a soft tone, a romantic’s statement played in a higher register and clearly voicing the pretty melody. The quartet joins in and repeats the melody, one last lyrical phrase, the final word, a love song to be proud of.

The opening song, "Low Down, No Good, Down Right Nasty Blues" is a slow blues tune that features a heavy open sounding bass line. The band kicks in and the sound gels perfectly. Sounding as if they have played together for a very long time, confident, full and skillful, they work the blues feel into an up beat, smoking, good time song. The tracks that follow continue on in a spirited manner. Overall Low Down, No Good is a great first effort, an easy listening well put together album featuring great playing, great songs and a great spirit.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Bill Prouten
  • CD Title: Low Down, No Good
  • Genre: BeBop / Hard Bop
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Record Label: Independent
  • Tracks: Low Down No Good Downright Nasty Blues, Parallel Bars, Billy’s Bossa, Unbalanced, An Aire For Claire, The Brightest Moon, Four Keys, Beyond The Stars
  • Musicians: Bill Prouten (tenor saxophone), Robi Botos (piano), Mike Downes (bass), Ted Warren (drums)
  • Rating: Three Stars
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