The untimely death of Atlanta jazz/improv drummer John Bowman back in March came as sad news to all who knew him. Honoring his name and boundless inspiration, dozens of his collaborators convene to play Bowmania tonight at the Druid Hills Baptist Church (1085 Ponce De Leon Ave.) on the corner of Ponce de Leon Ave. and North Highland Ave. San Agustin, 4th Ward AKO, and dozens of others are set to raise a musical pillar of fire to Bowman, culminating in a large group improv free-for-all.
Music starts at 7 p.m. and the cover charge is $10 (not free as it was reported earlier).
Aside from a stint with local improv group Motherfuckng Tourettes in the early 2000s, Bowman jumped around between groups, playing drums in various ensembles with dozens of musicians. Before tonight's show, a handful of friends and cohorts took a few minutes to reflect on his life and his approach to music.
"Venus" by Motherfucking Tourettes, from String Theory's The Theory of Everything: An Atlanta Compilation (2004).
"John and I befriended each other in high school mainly due to our love of skateboarding. At first we couldn't wait to meet after school to go skating, but soon after that we discovered music and drumming. Our daily anticipation for togetherness shifted from skating to drumming. After school we would walk back to his house and take turns on his dad's drum set in the garage. There was an old record player/cassette player and some headphones that opened up a lot of doors for us. We would play along to records for hours (his dad must have had the patience of a saint as I'm sure we annoyed the crap out of him). Thanks to those learning sessions and swapping of ideas, John developed one of the most unique approaches to drumming I've ever seen or heard. It mirrored his personality perfectly: Quirky, sincere, and passionate. He was fascinated with rhythm and polyrhythms and always wanted to learn more. On several occasions we would get together for a drum duet session and he would talk about one of his recent musical discoveries or revelations. He would simply say something like, "Isn't that just beautiful!? It's just so beautiful!" It was that constant state of amazement and passion that defined him as a player and as a human being and it is exactly why everyone fell in love with him." - Bryan Fielden
"John was a soldier of the free. He was the rhythm of my truest song. From our experiences in the Apparition Response Ensemble to our explorations throughtout the years of the Kirkwood Ballers Club, John's freedom provided an honest and loving foundation for our spontaneous compositions." - Rob Mallard
"Well, John used to come to open improv [at Eyedrum] quite often. He had to have been the most humble musician I have ever known, and was always so grateful to be able to play either as support or as lead, and was always praising others with whom he had just played. He was also one of the best 'listening' drummers I've ever known, with huge ears, able to follow anything you could throw out and be able to come up with some zingers of his own. Atlanta lost a treasure when they lost John. I still miss him and get a pang in the heart every time I see his facebook icon still come up." - Robert Cheatham
Not sure how John would handle all this post-mortem attention. I can see his hologram sitting in and listening to Bowmania plans, his big eyes surveying the scene, fingers tapping a rhythm on the table, poised to move at any minute. His body spoke many languages. It usually was saying, 'Lets' do something! Come on!' With a tilt of his head towards the future, 'Lets go play!' I know he'd be down with Bowmania, just to have a gig coming up with friends, and he'd ask you to play with him, too. - Nisa Asokan
I was friendly with Bowman, and I played in at least one incarnation of Sitting Bull Fire with him. John was a very visceral musician. He was very improvisational in all of his approaches toward music. He was a sweet kid; really nice and he always greeted you with a hug, and when he was into something he was really into it. He refrained from saying bad things about people, and if he had anything bad to say, he wouldn't say it. He used to come out to a lot of Gold Sparkle shows, and was a big fan of Andrew Barker. He really loved music and he really listened to it intensely. - Roger Ruzow
He seemed like the kind of kid that had his own concerns and wasn't seeking social approval for his identity. The last thing I remember about John was about two days before he died. I was eating dinner on a patio in East Atlanta with my wife and my kid. He walked by and started talking to us, and he really wanted to know how my kid was doing, even though he had only met him maybe one other time. He wanted to talk to my kid and figure out what he was like. That was the last time I saw him. He was extremely caring, and he only wanted to make brand-new music. He wasn't interested in playing anything that had been played before. - Andrew Burnes
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