CDs with James McGowan as leader / co-leader
Modasaurus - 4K (Release date: September 25, 2020)
The jazz-fusion quartet Modasaurus formed in early 2016 when Carleton University professor, pianist and composer James McGowan joined together with the HML trio: Jamie Holmes, Alex Moxon, Jean- Philippe (JP) Lapensee, some of the busiest musicians and educators in Ottawa, Canada.
With the name “Modasaurus,” they combine the fun yet imposing dinosaur name with “mode,” which is crucial to jazz-fusion music in its rich tonalities and sonic palettes. A second meaning - that of a style or fashion - is relevant here as well: the Modasaurus sound is a fusion of a wide range of styles, such as the Celtic-jazz fusion in “Crazy Ceilidh” and Middle- Eastern jazz in “Khaleegy.” “Hey Bud!” and “Seen my Jawa?” are Rhumba- and Samba-inspired, while “Chaconne and Fugue” integrates classical form and technique with jazz and rock styles. Completing the album are two pieces that inspired the graphic design for this album, the jazz waltz “Winding Way” and “The Four Kids” (4K), which set the playful tone of the album.
The pieces feature considerable interaction among the four musicians, both in the album’s through composed passages and more highly improvisatory sections. These performances are collaborative and engaging, written to be enjoyed in the moment, while still encouraging repeated critical listening.
Modasaurus - Two Intents (2017)
Building upon jazz-fusion traditions, the sound in Two Intents features toe-tapping funk grooves, rich sonic palettes, memorable melodies both composed and improvised, rhythmic twists and turns, and a compelling range of dynamic energy from exuberant to introspective and back again. All compositions were written by pianist James McGowan, but collectively realized.
EvenSong - Songs from the Bridge (2019 international release)
"Permit me voyage, love, into your hands ... " - Hart Crane
EvenSong creates music from the heart, to the heart. These are songs about trial, hope, sadness, joy, wisdom—songs of our spirit that span a bridge between you and me, between here and there, between urban jazz and folk traditions, between sound and silence, between our sorrows and our joy, between the secular and sacred, between where we’ve been and where we’ll go. The songs on this album capture the spontaneity of live performance collectively created in the moment. EvenSong is a quintet drawn from the deep well of the Ottawa music scene. JP Lapensee (bass) and Jamie Holmes (drums) are anchors for many of the finest jazz projects in the nation’s capital. Pianist and composer Dr. James McGowan is on the music faculty at Carleton University. Saxophonist Peter Woods is a congregational minister at MacKay United of the United Church of Canada. Leah Cogan emerged out of the national theatre scene as a singer/actor who touches our emotional souls. We’ve been gigging in and out of concert halls and churches, clubs and festival stages for years, grounding their music in the ebbs and flows of interactive music.
EvenSong happily says “yes” to the beauty of the world. They hear songs and share songs out of a commitment to say that “yes” over and over. From Leah’s infectious passion (lullabying?) of “God Bless the Child” to JP’s imaginative soundscape he creates throughout “Both Sides Now”; from James’ pianistic spiritual reflection on “Lament” to Peter’s tuneful grit on Wayfaring Stranger and Jamie’s life-sustaining heartbeat throughout, this music says “yes” over and over. It’s happy music, but make no mistake, it’s also resistance music. Pulsing with hope and affirmation, it is meant to defy the temptation of apathy and irony. Listen to the band as it roars through “Nature Boy” confidently exclaiming “The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return!”
Meanwhile, EvenSong’s whole project is meant as a giant invitation for us all to say that sacred “yes” to the stories of own lives. Here. Now.
This album is the soundtrack to our journeys that span the bridges in our lives.
Dong-Won Kim and James McGowan - Over the Mountain (2017)
Freely improvised live performance of percussion and voice with piano, drawing upon influences of traditional Korean folk music, contemporary art music, tonal music, and free jazz traditions. This CD captures a live performance on November 22, 2016 at the Ottawa Steinway Piano Gallery. The improvised lyrics to the song "Over the Mountain" nicely capture the prevailing sonic and spiritual space that the two musicians created that evening.
Dong-Won Kim is a Korean percussionist and vocalist, and Professor at Wonkwang Digital University. He is a member of Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble, and former Artist-in-Residence at Carleton University.