The Man Behind the Music.
Jesse Bowens, Jr.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Jesse Bowens Jr. inherited the ability to play from a family of accomplished musicians. His father, Jesse Bowens Sr., raised in Philadelphia, loved playing piano, drums, and a wide assortment of other instruments and passed this unique musical talent onto his sons and grandchildren.
In the early '70s, they left Cleveland and moved to a small town in Pennsylvania. Around this time, his talents became recognized when playing his cousin's drumset at the age of seven. His intuitiveness and timing were remarkable for someone that young. Shortly thereafter, his mother purchased his first instruments, a drum set, and a trumpet.
Several years later, as a young teen, he was thrust into the forefront at church on Sunday mornings and was asked to accompany the pianist by playing drums. One summer, a traveling evangelist heard him playing and requested that he play alongside his organist for his tent meeting services. Those meetings drew large crowds who loved listening to the music. The demand for the music became so high that it prompted the small ensemble to record an album of gospel songs that sold out after each meeting. He continued playing with the ensemble until the pastor returned to Florida.
His mother would soon leave the church to seek services with larger congregations with prominent choirs, singers, and musicians. Jesse's skills would develop quickly while playing alongside musicians three times his age. To coincide with that, his older sister Tracy was a natural on saxophone and advanced to play in the high school Senior stage band. When she played, his mother took him to her performances. As he sat in the audience, Jesse would listen to the complex drum solos and soak up the advanced playing of talented musicians in the well-engineered Jazz band. He was eager to play for the high school band and patiently waited. Immediately after elementary, he signed up for the music program and advanced to playing drums and trumpet for the Junior and Senior high marching and concert bands.
But high school brought along some adversity. He got into some minor mischief at Bandcamp which caused the music director to label him a troublemaker. The denunciation became apparent after auditions were held for the new drummer for the senior stage band. Although seemingly the obvious choice, the director gave the position to another student. Although visibly upset, his desire to play in the rhythm section became more significant and intense. He would not be denied and decided to try out for rhythm guitarist and sought to purchase an electric guitar. As it turned out, he would only find an individual selling an electric bass.
New to the instrument, he practiced all summer until he became fluent. When new auditions came up in his senior year, his fellow band members were shocked to hear that he would audition on bass guitar instead of trumpet. No musician had ever changed instruments that quickly. So, many of his peers doubted his capability. The only obstacle that stood in his path was the music director. But surprisingly, in his senior year, the music director opted for a new position at a nearby school.
That brought in a brand new music director. Unlike the former director, he recognized Jesse's talent and saw an eager teen desiring to join the new rhythm section. Upon hearing his audition, seeing him pass all of the requirements regarding scales, and noticing him successfully merge from Treble to Bass clef, He granted him the position of electric bassist. To him, it was apparent that Jesse belonged in the rhythm section. Since the position of lead drummer was already granted, He encouraged Jesse to be the best bassist he could be. Months later, after hearing how quickly Jesse progressed, He granted him a solo on an opening song entitled "Ginger Bird."
Jesse would ultimately get a chance to prove himself to everyone. The new director enlisted the newly formed "Frontiersmen" to compete at an upcoming stage band competition. Several schools around the area allowed their best student musicians to shine with personal solos during song selections. When Jesse's solo came up, he played a funky rendition of his favorite bassists, including Jaco Pastorius, Bootsy Collins, and Stanley Clarke. The audience applauded in approval after he finished his two-minute rendition. At the end of the performances, the soloist sat quietly awaiting the judge's decision at the awards ceremony. Moments later, Jesse would excitingly walk away with a music scholarship and an honorary award of outstanding musicianship from the Berklee College of music. His dreams were finally coming true.
However, after all of the hard-fought success his senior year, he would never get the chance to attend Berklee. Unknown to most classmates, his family struggled in dealing with an alcoholic stepfather who previously, after a drunken rage, set fire to their home. That incident made it extremely difficult to concentrate on his senior studies. It would take years of laboring to reconstruct their house to livable conditions. So he chose to forego any attempts to attend college to stay home and help his family rebuild. Several months after graduation, he would resurface on the music scene to form a band with his new friend Eric Kaufman.
After a few successful jam sessions in Eric's father's basement, they set out to find a guitar player to accompany the duo. They held several auditions with local guitarists around the area, but nobody fit the mold they were looking for. After much thought, they auditioned Chris Kijak, who played rhythm guitar alongside Jesse in the Stage band. The sessions were successful, and after months of playing together, they compiled a list of original songs. The group was later named EKG. They chose to forego a lead singer and strictly play instrumentals. Their unique alternative style allowed them to showcase their talents around the surrounding areas. Then, Star Search came to town.
Star Search was an exciting new show on television that occasionally made its rounds to small towns searching for talent. After auditioning for the competition, EKG would perform and win each round up into the finals. Audiences stood in applause to this new fresh band which delivered a powerful musical package of Rock, Funk, and Jazz fusion. During the finals, the band would ask their friend Ritchie Kotzen seated in the audience, to stand in momentarily to replace their guitarist, who ran late. Although playing relatively well, they would lose the final round to a group of break-dancers and come in 2nd place. Upset with being placed in the same category as dance, they ventured on to find new talent to expand the band's sound.
While searching for talent, Jesse would find and befriend Chris Heslop, an up-and-coming saxophonist and keyboardist. After auditioning, he quickly became the 4th member of the group. The addition of the keyboards and saxophone widened their sound and brought new colors to their material. They recorded a demo tape with 15 original songs at a local studio a few months later.
Although significant, the new sound was short-lived. That coming summer, Chris Heslop left the group to attend college to major in music. His early departure paused the band's growth. Later, disagreements mounted after discussions of playing covers continued to surface. Unable to unify regarding the future format of the band, the group eventually broke up.
In the upcoming years, Jesse began to hone in on singing and songwriting while occasionally playing bass for bands around his area. Aside from playing bass for church, he also began to write his own music and make multiple sound-on-sound recordings to showcase his talents.
Personally bothered by the sound quality of the tapes, he began to read magazines on the home-studio recording platform. During this time, he befriended Richard Benning, who introduced him to four-track recording and drum machines. This new platform opened up a wave of creative ideas. He decided to familiarize himself with the latest technology and purchased newer equipment. Conversations soon advanced from musicianship and songwriting to digital sequencing, microphones, midi machines, and DAWS.
He quickly completed three demo tapes and began shopping them around Philadelphia's music scene, where he became recognized by other musicians as an innovative composer and writer. Also keenly noted was his fluidity on multiple instruments, including electric guitars, drums, and keyboards.
As 2000 came tumbling in, he would get the chance to produce for a slew of up-and-coming artists. He would perform multiple times in the Berks Jazz fests with his band 4everFriends. The band would rub shoulders with accomplished Jazz musicians such as Gerald Albright, Gerald Veasley, Joe McBride, David Sanborn, Bernard Allison, and others. With yet another metamorphosis, he has a newfound conviction to project his music productions into TV commercials, screenplays, and short films!
"Today, I'm content in helping people reach musical aspirations of singing and songwriting or any other form of music through my productions. In the past, I wanted to be the greatest musician of all time. Now I'm satisfied with producing quality material and helping anyone reach their dreams. I want to partner with people with this mindset and break free from long, drawn-out contracts and the traditional form of generating money through music. There are too many original ideas lost by those strict platforms on 'what record labels want you to hear' instead of 'what people want to hear.' Something is missing."
"When I see a person with talent struggling to get their ideas heard, I immediately recall my own experiences. I compare them to my adversities in high school by being the only black student in my class. For years I had to battle racial bias held by many students and teachers. I slowly learned with the help of my Uncle Charles Blockson and his teachings to bypass the ignorance of others and to triumph over them through knowledge of history and one's self."
"That same tenacity is needed to achieve personal goals. I see too many artists writing uninspired songs, trying to mimic copycat acts which cater to fads or whatever is trending on social media. They prefer being a gimmick rather than writing original material. Therefore, millions of listeners are spoon-fed unoriginal content and go unaware of being robbed sonically and spiritually while labels get rich off their backs. The subject matter in today's popular music has millions of its listeners living recklessly. I want to bring back true feeling and positivity."
"My goal is to help artists channel self-expressionism through our productions. I think it is essential to love the creation process before seeking notoriety or fame. Never forget how creating a song makes you feel inside. If you sink your heart into your project, people will feel it. If you strike that chord with the listener, all those other things will eventually come later. That's our vision here at Music Factory Productions.
We are progressively getting better at this. It is a challenge, but it's an exciting time. Stay tuned; the best is yet to come!"
MUSICAL INFLUENCES INCLUDE; Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Queen, The Beatles, David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, Elton John, Weather Report, Stanley Clarke, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Jeff Buckley, Joseph Zawinul, Prince, Michael Jackson and the Jacksons, Barbara Streisand, James Brown, Sly Stone, Issac Hayes, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Jaco Pastorius, Jeff Beck, Thelonius Monk, The Roots, Mos Def and more!