The sun’s shine had taken over Heritage Landing, a beautiful outdoor performance venue on the suburb shores of the great Lake Michigan. Widely respected smooth jazz guitarist and producer Tim Bowman was there as part of the all-star lineup of Alexander Zonjic’s Shoreline Jazz Festival. After Bowman brought the audience to their feet following his brilliant set, one which included both groove-laden selections from his six acclaimed studio albums and passionate guest vocals by his son Tim Bowman Jr., the Detroit native sat with SoulTrain.com under the shade of an umbrella covered table. He admitted owing the rays of his own shine to relationships he’s built throughout his storied career.
Bowman said, “There are so many avenues throughout the recording industry, and people have different views and different advantages. Bringing them together makes everyone stronger. That’s what building relationships are about, gaining that strength and those advantages, and using them together. It’s more fun that way. And doing so for me was very important.”
Before working with such legends as Jeff Lorber and Najee, Bowman spent nearly a decade as music director for gospel legends The Winans. When he decided to gamble on himself, embarking on a solo jazz career, he packed every bit of experience, savvy leadership, sonic sensibility and skill he could carry. And of course, he accommodated the weight of his signature guitar in his travels. Where would he be without his closest companion? “It’s like a second person; where it goes, I go,” Bowman said of his guitar.
On stage, Bowman showcases just how heavy their relationship gets. “It’s like a third hand,” he said, with a laugh. “I pick it up and start playing without even looking at it! We’re well connected.”
Also important to Bowman is the connection between education and the arts. He said it deeply affects him to learn school systems ditch music and arts as cost-cutting measures. “What’s really amazing to me is they cut arts first then physical education too,” Bowman said. “Music and gym are important! For some, you’re either an athlete or an artist. Some places don’t have any of that! If you’re going to take away from K through 12, at least have some music!”
A lot of potential talent gets pushed to the side with no development because, “the kids didn’t even know they had talent,” Bowman said. “Nobody is saying, ‘Hey, come take this music class and try out this instrument.’ That’s how some people found out they could sing! They sang in school.”
The church is where Bowman’s talent for playing the guitar was initially nurtured, he said. That faithful environment folded up nicely as his additional carry-on. “When I’m playing my instrument,” Bowman began, “I’m always praising God. Always. I’m just thankful for the fact he’s given me this gift.”
Another gift in Bowman’s eyes was Soul Train’s historic television run. Asked could such a show catering to jazz be successful today, Bowman responded with a positive outlook. “I believe it would be! We used to stay up and watch live jazz concerts all the time. But those shows passed on because television became corporatized. It became all about the money. But with the right people behind it today it could work.”
Remember BET On Jazz?
“Yeah, I watched it all the time!” Bowman exclaimed. “Today it could introduce a lot of great jazz musicians out there people don’t know anything about. They need that back. And if you’re going to bring jazz back to major television you’ll need someone to introduce it. So, I’d like to be the Don Cornelius of jazz!
“Don Cornelius has some big shoes to fill,” Bowman continued. “He was the man! I remember being a little kid watching The Jacksons on Soul Train, and Don introducing them made them being there that much more special.”
For a moment, Tim Bowman began to imagine what it would be like to play some of his chart- topping hits and popular favorites on the Soul Train stage if such an opportunity existed. His six album track record suggests it wouldn’t be a bad gamble. The thought of performing on the iconic television show made the soulful jazz star shine a bit brighter as a smile stretched his face. Considering how the crowd popped for his Shoreline Jazz Festival set, embracing his very public relationship with his guitar, his career journey would be a welcomed stop on the hippest trip in America. “I could see playing ‘Sweet Sundays’ or ‘Summer Groove,’ which is a song that just came to me while riding one summer with my top down. I wrote it in like ten minutes! I can think of a lot of songs I’d like to play on [Soul Train]!”
For more on Tim Bowman, visit his official website timbowman.com.
—Mr. Joe Walker
Known as “The Word Heavyweight Champion”, Mr. Joe Walker is a biographer, author, and columnist, currently a senior writer for SoulTrain.com, staff writer for Muskegon Tribune Newspaper, and writer of popular Concrete Magazine blog “Tinna: See”. Also co-creator of TheGrooveSpot.com, Walker’s acclaimed, award-winning work has been published thousands of times regionally, nationally, internationally, and online. Follow him on Twitter @mrjoewalker, connect with him on Facebook, and also visit his blog ByMrJoeWalker.blogspot.com.