It can be difficult to place the genre of Alysha Brilla’s Juno nominated album Rooted. The music is marked with a colourful mélange of sounds and influences that wend their way through the songs – the distinct signatures of its players. But there, amongst the bunch, keeping the beat and carrying the rhythms forward, is the contributions of drummer Adam Bowman.
For the former Elmira resident, who was born in Listowel and attended EDSS, this is the third album he has played on that has been nominated for the prestigious Juno. In 2014, it was Womyn, another Brilla record, and Eccodek’s Singing in Tongues. This year’s Rooted album is being nominated for the Adult Contemporary Album of the Year award.
“It feels good. It always feels nice to have your work acknowledged,” said Bowman of the nomination. “A career in the arts can sometimes have its challenges. It’s not always the easiest thing and sometimes these little acknowledgements or encouragements are the things that help you keep going.”
This is also the third Brilla album that Bowman has worked on and, he says, might be his favourite.
“I feel like it really captures the spirit of what we do live really well on the album,” he said.
The music is definitely more than the sum of its parts as each musician injects his or her style into the mix.
“The genre thing has just become so difficult. There’s so much cross-pollination happening with people’s influences,” he said.
“Allison Young, who plays on the record, is probably one of the most in-demand jazz saxophonists in Canada right now. So she’s definitely going to come from a very jazz-orientated place. Whereas someone like Chris [Rouse] has been a mainstay in R&B and soul and funk in Canada for many years so that’s where he comes from. And, you know, Alysha’s influences range from Amy Winehouse to reggae artists, and classic soul singers.”
As for Bowman, he brings his own range. There’s the sounds of the American Motown, R&B and soul music he grew up on, the likes of Michael Jackson, Prince and Stevie Wonder. When he attended Humber College later in life, he got into a jazz-focused program, and suddenly it was Miles Davis and Bill Evans who became his proverbial teachers. But, as a session percussionist, Bowman is a bit of a nomad in the music scene, flitting from band to band and style to style as the demand arises.
“It’s been a bit of an interesting thing where these influences sort of get added on as the journey rolls along. And then being a session musician. that’s kind of handy to have that library of influences and sort of spices and tastes and flavours to draw on when it comes time to play a record,” he noted.
“But what [Rooted] does sound like to me is it’s like the soundtrack of summer festivals,” he laughed. “It sounds like a summer festival on record.”
Bowman has been active on the Canadian music season for years, sharing the stage with some of the country’s premiere artists. Brilla is a major one, and with her album now up for a Juno and summer festival season around the corner, Bowman anticipates spending a lot more time on the road touring.
But that’s just the tip of it. Bowman provided his talents on Elise LeGrow’s newest album, Playing Chess, which drops this week, meaning “all eyes are on her as well.” Besides that, he’s done collaborations with the likes of Jason Raso, the Canadian bassist and composer, on a jazz-fusion project Live at the Jazz Room. The Raso record came out late last year, meaning it’ll be in high demand at the local jazz festivals.
But that’s still a few months away. In the meantime, in between recording sessions and live shows, Bowman runs his own group-drumming classes in Guelph, which he currently calls home. “Funkbucket” is more than just a name, as the classes are all about drumming on buckets. No prior musical skills are needed, just a willingness to get involved and have fun.
“It’s been great,” said Bowman. “We’ve got about 25 brave souls that have signed up to be the first ones and we’re adding new folks every week. They’re actually developing drum technique, rhythm reading skills – we’re preparing pieces of music that have actually been written for the bucket – improvisational skills.”
Bowman explains he was motivated to create the class based off the workshops he would sometimes offer at festivals and at schools. He’d do these one off bucket drumming experiences, and decided he wanted to make it a regular event.
“So, yeah, the Funkbucket thing has been a lot of fun as well. I feel really lucky, every day is just another musical adventure of one way, shape or form,” he said.
But perhaps the biggest excitement in Bowman’s life is not the music right now, but being a father.
“I got married last year, and my wife and I are expecting our first baby … so that’s exciting. That also sort of reframes the concept of excitement, you know?” he added with a laugh.
Both Bowman and his wife are artists – he a musician, and she a modern dancer – and they’ve both seen their fellow artists juggle their livelihoods with their family lives.
“I’m excited to do the same. To raise this little person and show them all the wonderful things about life and dance and music and art and everything has to offer,” he said. “It’s a beautiful thing this life and there’s an awful lot to check out.”
To check out Bowman’s music, see www.adambowman.com. Bowman can also be seen alongside Elise LeGrow on The Morning Show on Global TV February 20.