Bill Prouten is a Canadian tenor saxophonist and composer, but don't be fooled by that or the cover where he is posed leaning on a cabin wearing overalls into thinking this is some hayseed hack — this is sophisticated music played by highly-talented musicians. An instructor at Alberta's Keyano College, who has played with some of the top names in Jazz, Prouten shows considerable skill on his instrument. And he is backed ably by Robi Botos on piano, Mike Downes on bass and Ted Warren on drums.
Prouten says the "Low-down, No-good, Downright Nasty Blues" of the title track was inspired by the song "Man of Constant Sorrow," and it is bluesy, but only dirty in the best sense, with Prouten's rich tone rising above the solid rhythm playing of his bandmates. Quite catchy, but a bit misleading, as the rest of the album consists mostly of original straight ahead and Latin-influenced numbers that maintain a high level of interest and consistency.
"Parallel Bars" is a clever reworking of "Giant Steps," while tracks like the luscious and romantic "Billy's Bossa" and "An Aire For Claire" really show Prouten (and pianist Botos) at their melodically pleasing best. "Unabalanced" lives up to its title with several sudden and explosive shifts in direction, allowing Botos and drummer Warren the chance to really sparkle.
"The Brightest Moon" crosses early Coltrane Latin changes with Getz lyricism in a delightful melange. Prouten has clearly studied the masters and plays with a full tone and a touch of a growl. "Four Keys" is a subtle gem with a tasty solo turn by Downes, while "Beyond the Stars" ends the album on a haunting note, with this somewhat bluesy original standard.
Prouten is a talent who should be heard. This album features wonderful playing and songwriting and is well worth an addition to your collection if you love the tenor sax anything like I do.