Bowler attended the University of Hartford, where he took a bachelor's degree in music in 1972. He played with Roland Kirk from 1976–78, then with Hugh Masekela (1980), Joe Lee Wilson (1981), Wynton Marsalis (1982–83), Big Nick Nicholas (1983-85), Slide Hampton, Jon Faddis (1984–89), and Ralph Peterson, Jr. (1987-1996). He played in a quintet with Donald Harrison and Terence Blanchard in 1984-85, touring in Europe with Benny Golson. He recorded with Carla White in 1988 and Sal Salvador in 1989, and led his own quartet, called Pocket Jungle, in 1991. From 1990 to 1997 he played in another group led by Donald Harrison, and worked with Jackie McLean in 1997-99. He and Newman Taylor Baker played in a duo in 1997, and in 1998 he worked in the Count Basie ghost orchestra.
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With Max Roach
- Live at Vielharmonie (Soul Note, 1983)
- Gary W. Kennedy, "Phil Bowler". Grove Jazz online.