Pianist Kris Bowers has shared the stage and/or recorded with jazz artists such as Terell Stafford, Vincent Herring, Louis Hayes, Casey Benjamin and Kenneth Whalum II. He has continued performing in a number of other genres, working with Murs, Q-Tip, Josè James, Jay-Z and Kanye West. Bowers can be heard on Kanye West and Jay-Z’s latest album, Watch the Throne. He has also performed for notable individuals including Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and President Barack Obama. Bowers was the winner of the 2011 Thelonious Monk Institute International Piano Competition, where he caught the attention of judges Jason Moran, Herbie Hancock, Danilo Perez, Renee Rosnes and Ellis Marsalis. He is pursuing his Masters in Jazz Performance with a focus on film composition at Juilliard. Bowers is currently forming his own band and will be releasing his debut album on Concord Records next year. This week, the Rock Hall caught up withBowers, who will perform at the Aretha Franklin tribute concert at PlayhouseSquare's State Theater on November 5.
Rock Hall: What is your first memory of hearing Aretha Franklin's music?
Kris Bowers: Growing up, Aretha was one of the handful of artists my parents always had in heavy rotation around the house. But, although I was "hearing" her music constantly, I didn't actually begin "listening" to it until I was in high school.
RH: When you began "listening" and "hearing" Aretha Franklin's music, were there any recordings you really connected with?
KB: I'll never forget the day one of my mentors and favorite pianists, Mulgrew Miller, told me to pick up her album Amazing Grace. He manages to have a copy with him always: one at home, one in his car and one in his briefcase.
The power, soul and raw emotion Aretha sings with on that album gave me chills from the first note, and I had that album on repeat for the next several months. She is an incredible artist whose voice has the ability to reach inside a person and shake their soul.
On Saturday, November 5, at PlayhouseSquare's State Theater, Kris Bowers will perform alongside an all-star lineup, including Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Jerry Butler (of the Impressions), Dennis Edwards (of the Tempations), Ronald Isley (of the Isley Brothers) and Spooner Oldham, in addition to 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominee Chaka Khan, Melinda Doolittle, Carla Cook, Mike Farris, Ms. Lauryn Hill and Cissy Houston, as artists take the stage to pay tribute to 2011 American Music Masters honoree Aretha Franklin. The concert marks the culmination of a weeklong series of American Music Masters events celebrating the life and legacy of Aretha Franklin.