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Tenor saxophonist Sean Nowell recently released his second album, “The Seeker,” an introspective compilation of acoustically driven ballads, each driven by the personal experiences of the composer.

Originally from Birmingham, Ala., the Astoria-based musician credits the colorful stories of his life as the driving force behind “The Seeker,” citing his time in Eastern Europe in particular as having a strong impact on the tracks.

“The album is all about my experience traveling and meeting people from various walks of life. A lot of those tracks have a story behind them,” Nowell said.

The title of the album speaks about Nowell’s sense of wanting to get out into the world and see new things, which over the past decade he has been able to do, thanks to his work as musical director for The Bond Street Theatre. The gig includes traveling around the world to perform in the name of humanitarian outreach for refugees of war.

Nowell describes this work as “conflict resolution theater” that is both fun and dangerous. Much of the theater’s purpose is to encourage self-expression in places where it is suppressed. This creative venture ended up generating material for Nowell’s own self-expression in “The Seeker.”

“I tend to write my strongest material by thinking of personal experiences that I’ve had,” Nowell said. “It’s all about writing about an experience, writing for somebody I’ve met in my journeys.”

“The Seeker” opens with the track “New York Vibe,” which Nowell wrote before he moved to New York City. He composed the music based on his expectations of the city, and having lived here for 13 years, he feels the music is spot on in reflecting the New York vibe.

The third track “Yo Matze Matze” is inspired by a traditional Bulgarian folk song Nowell picked up while building a set for a production of “Romeo and Juliet” with Bond Street Theatre in Bulgaria.

“Bulgarian folk music had a lot of influence on my compositional style,” Nowell said. “There are all kinds of stories going on in that song, like driving through really crazy, war-torn parts of Kosovo where we almost got kidnapped.” Again, both fun and dangerous.

The fourth track, “Dunavski Park,” was written in Serbia, and is about Nowell’s time spent in a park of the same name, where he brewed home-made barbeque sauce and connected with people he describes as “amazing” and “impressed” by his sauce-making abilities.

Pianist Art Hirahara and drummer Joe Abbatantuono return for their second recording with Nowell in “The Seeker” after having worked with Nowell on his debut album “Fire Werks” (2007). Bassist Thomson Kneeland, cellist David Eggar and guitarist Nir Felder also show off their musical stylings in “The Seeker.”

When contrasting his 2007 album to “The Seeker,” Nowell says the album is more acoustically driven and “straight-ahead jazz-oriented” whereas “Fire Werks” was more electro-acoustic.

Nowell’s Birmingham roots infused him with the Southern traditions of blues, gospel, jazz and funk before he journeyed to Berklee College of Music in Boston to study jazz composition. Afterwards he earned his master’s in arts from the Manhattan School of Music and signed on with Bond Street Theatre. But after all his world experience, he’s learned the best place to be is right here in Queens.

“It made me realize that I like being in New York the most — where it’s safe,” Nowell said. “Queens totally rules. Everyone that thinks Brooklyn is where it’s at is sadly mistaken.”

Nowell regularly performs at New York jazz hot spots like The 55 Bar on Christopher Street and Smalls Jazz Club on West 10th Street and 7th Avenue. As for the future, Nowell is currently working on setting up tour dates in Eastern Europe and also in the United States.

“I’m looking forward to bringing New York with me. Its about to happen, I’m really very excited about that,” Nowell said.

“The Seeker” (Posi-Tone Records) is available on online at iTunes,,, and the Posi-Tone Records Web site. Tour dates and information on live performances are available at

Posted 6:29 pm, October 10, 2011
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