b. St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Younger brother of trumpeter Lester Bowie, Joseph learned piano and congas but finally settled with trombone. At the age of 15 he played with bluesmen Albert King and Little Milton and soul saxophonist Oliver Sain. He spent two years in Paris with other members of BAG (Black Artists Group), then in the late 70s recorded with Charles ‘Bobo’ Shaw in the Human Arts Ensemble and the St. Louis Creative Ensemble before returning to New York to work with the Contortions, James Chance’s harmolodic/punk, no wave group. The horn section became an opening act and then a band in its own right: Defunkt. This unit combined jazz chops and nouveau -funk cheer, touring with the Clash and Talking Heads and releasing several excellent studio albums.
After a heroin-induced hiatus on the island of St. Croix, Bowie returned in 1986 with an amazing physique and reassembled Defunkt. The new line-up, which featured Kim Annette Clarke’s bass guitar (described by one reviewer as ‘funky as the chain on Judge Dredd’s motorbike’), returned to the studio to record the critically acclaimed In America. Since then, Bowie and Defunkt have steered between dance music and avant garde jazz with a verve that makes nonsense of the usual pigeonholes. In addition to his work with Defunkt, Bowie’s busy schedule has included work with the Chicago-based African blues trio the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, Charlie Haden’s Liberation Orchestra, the Vienna Art Orchestra, and the David Murray Big Band.~ Rovi