Thursday, February 28, 2019

Frank Lowe - 1975 - Fresh

Frank Lowe

01. Epistrophy 7:43
02. Play Some Blues 4:52
03. Fresh 6:18
04. Mysterioso 11:44
05. Chu's Blues 6:29

Cello – Abdul Wadud
Drums – Charles Bobo Shaw (tracks: A2 to B1), Steve Reid (2) (tracks: A1)
Tenor Saxophone – Frank Lowe
Trombone – Joseph Bowie (tracks: A1 to B1)
Trumpet – Lester Bowie (tracks: A1 to B1)
Wind [Cheng] – Selene Fung (tracks: A3)

Recorded at Blue Rock Studios, New York City, March 7, 1975. Track B2 was recorded at Free Tone Studios, Memphis Tennessee in September 1974

The emphasis is on color and sound on this spirited avant-garde album. Four of the five selections feature the adventurous tenor of Frank Lowe with trumpeter Lester Bowie, trombonist Joseph Bowie, cellist Abdul Wadud and either Steve Reid or Bob Shaw on drums. They perform two Lowe originals and two pieces by Thelonious Monk; these renditions are full of surprises and contrasts. In addition, Lowe is heard with an unknown group of local musicians called "the Memphis Four" on "Chu's Blues" in 1974. Open-eared listeners should find this set to be quite stimulating.

One of the better recordings created for the Arista/Freedom series, rather than licensed from tapes Alan Bates had already produced for Black Lion – and a nice set of loft jazz played by Lowe with help from Lester and Joseph Bowie, Abdul Wadud, Steve Reid, and Charles Bobo Shaw. The group play 2 Monk tracks, "Epistrophy" and "Mysterioso", plus 2 Lowe originals, "Play Some Blues" and "Fresh", with a sound befitting the title track, approaching the new thing with a respect for the swing and blues roots of jazz. The final track "Chu's Blues", is a little different from the rest of the LP, a great grooving number that was performed by Lowe in Memphis, with help from the Memphis Four. 

Frank Lowe Quartet - 2014 - Out Loud

Frank Lowe Quartet
Out Loud

01. Untitled 1 11:13
02. Vivid Description 8:04
03. Listen 2:33
04. Untitled 2 12:35
05. Logical Extensions 0:41
06. Whew! 23:18
07. Untitled 3 23:53

Acoustic Bass – William Parker
Drums – Steve Reid
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Percussion, Instruments [Small] – Frank Lowe
Trombone, Percussion – Joseph Bowie
Trumpet – Ahmed Abdullah (tracks: D1 only)

Musical archeology has become somewhat of a trend these days. It might be explained, in part by the rebirth of vinyl and the excavation of long out-of-print titles, but also there are scores of devoted collectors who've discovered unpublished recordings of significant artists. For the serially neglected avant-garde of jazz, some of these finds have been significant. Albert Ayler's Holy Ghost: Rare And Unissued Recordings (1962-70) (Revenant, 2004) box set and the more recent Centering: Unreleased Early Recordings 1976-1987 (No Business, 2012) that documents the early work of bassist William Parker, come to mind. 

Out Loud a well preserved artifact from the early career of saxophonist Frank Lowe, adds to that list. These two LPs, released in a limited edition of 550 hand-numbered copies come with a 38-page booklet of unpublished photographs, a detailed biography of Lowe, and a technical analysis by saxophonist J.D. Parran. More importantly, the music is mastered by Joe Lizzi and Ben Young to sound fresh and vibrantly uncontaminated. The sounds are pressed on heavy vinyl and are accompanied by a 40-minute video link to the RivBea loft performance. 

Lowe in 1974, was preparing a follow-up to his debut Black Beings (ESP, 1973) and he assembled this quartet of trombonist Joseph Bowie, bassist William Parker, and drummer Steve Reid. Plans changed, I suspect by a producer, and the music, this suite "Act Of Freedom," was shelved for two covers of Thelonious Monk's music and three originals. Fresh kept Bowie but replaced Reid with Bobo Shaw (except for one track), added trumpeter Lester Bowie and swapped cellist Abdul Wadud for Parker. 

The music heard on these two dates, the first from Rashied Ali's Survival Studio on Greene Street and the second at Sam Rivers's Bond Street Studio RivBea loft, is a distillation of times in cross-section. Lowe, born in Memphis, joined Sun Ra's band after Vietnam, then, inspired by Ornette Coleman in New York, joined bands led by Alice Coltrane, Milford Graves, Rashied Ali and Don Cherry. His blues drenched firebrand sound can be heard in today's music by players like Mats Gustafsson, Mars Williams, and Ellery Eskelin. 

The Survival Studio date is animated by William Parker's fierce bass lines and the constantly changing drive of Steve Reid's drumming. Lowe brings the sounds of Sun Ra's Arkestra and the AACM's Art Ensemble of Chicago to bear here. His saxophone vocalizations squeeze every last drop of expressiveness for the performance. As might be expected from the times, there is a rough hewn edge here, but the energy new lags. The final side adds trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah to the mix. Like Bowie, he mixes, pokes and spars with Lowe, pressuring the music deeper and deeper. The beauty in this music is that it repeatedly shatters, then congeals. Shatter then congeals.

2014 release. The complete recordings by the hitherto invisible 1974 quartet of Frank Lowe, Joe Bowie, William Parker, and Steve Reid. For what would have been his second album as leader, Frank Lowe captured this cataclysmic quartet in-studio at Survival and in performance at Studio Rivbea. Lowe called it "Logical Extensions". These 1974 tapes went unreleased and are heard only now in this rediscovered and expanded volume. Out Loud gathers the only known recordings of this combustible band, with trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah guesting on one track, and a link to landmark video footage of the quartet live at Rivbea. The second LP was recorded at Studio Rivbea 24 Bond Street, NYC around 1974; Recording engineer -Scott Trusty. The first LP was recorded at Survival Studio, 77 Greene Street, NYC on May 1, 1974; Recording engineer - Rashied Ali. Includes 38-page, full-color brochure: Ed Hazell explains the music's genesis and fits the group into a loft-scene perspective; Photographers Val Wilmer and Omar Kharem pluck choice visuals from the rubble of Watergate-era NYC; J.D. Parran's recollections give you director's-cut insight into Lowe's saxophony; 40-minute sync-sound video offers a revealing peep through the keyhole of 24 Bond Street. Comes in old-school, tip-on gatefold jacket, lavishly designed by the award-winning Svenja Knödler. Edition of 550 (hand-numbered).

Frank Lowe - 1973 - Black Beings

Frank Lowe
Black Beings

01. In Trane's Name
02. Brother Joseph
03. Thulani

Joseph Jarman: soprano, alto sax
Frank Lowe: tenor sax
The Wizard (Raymond Lee Cheng): violin
William Parker:bass
Rashid Sinan: drums

The age of the LP was often one of compromise for jazz musicians. Given the restrictions on playing time, recordings had to be edited to fit. This meant a loss of ideas and of development with the truncated versions being shadows of the whole. The emergence of the CD has seen the revival of music with the whole performance included. Sometimes the edits were better, but many times the complete picture brings in a deeper dimension and impact. The latter sensibility grabs this recording which has fifteen minutes added to "In Trane's Name" and "Thulani."

Recorded in 1973, Frank Lowe (tenor saxophone) pulled in Joseph Jarman (soprano and alto saxophones) and William Parker (bass) to fly into the eye of free jazz. Lowe was into the music after John Coltrane's Ascension (Impulse!, 1965), and the influence and impact can be felt right through. Lowe went out on a musical limb here; the genre was not a long-term residence for him.

It all opens quietly enough with "In Trane's Name." Lowe plays with control, giving the melody its due, but when the tune erupts, the power and the force are incendiary. Both Lowe and Jarman propel and edge the music onwards, fermenting and brewing ideas on the go. There is howl and yell and intensely volatile notes shooting into the stratosphere. Jarman hits the high squiggles, squeezing out the notes, the torque tight. Lowe swipes a broader swath as he gets into a conversation with Jarman, if that's what the charged atmosphere can be called. Give the band credit though for not letting the tune spiral out of control, they bring it down, cooling the pace for the mid-section.

"Thulani" is another agitated progression, with Lowe and Jarman moving on different planes; the former is steady on the beat and the melody, the later unfurls a whorl of free motifs. But it is not long before Lowe dives into the pith and tears form apart.

Parker and Rashid Sinan (drums) are an energetic and propulsive rhythm section. As for The Wizard on violin, it is Raymond Lee Chang and not Leroy Jenkins, whose playing informs Chang through a few shimmering lines on his solo outing during "Thulani," a waft of freshness in the heat. But he, too, is caught in the turmoil most of the way.

Black Beings serves as an historical document and stopping-off point in the musical legacy of Lowe, showing a rare side of the musician.

When he started out on ESP-Disk', Frank Lowe was one of those hard-blowing tenor saxophonists we think of when we heard the phrase "free jazz." Born in Memphis, he moved to San Francisco and, while visiting New York, began playing with Alice Coltrane (on whose albumWorld Galaxy he made his recording debut in 1971), Sun Ra, Rashied Ali, and Noah Howard, and eventually moved to the Big Apple. 

On his debut as a leader, Lowe was confident enough to share the frontline with the Art Ensemble of Chicago's Joseph Jarman, who sticks to soprano and alto saxes here. This album is also notable as the recording debut of bassist William Parker, who has gone on to become an elder statesman of the genre and a ubiquitous presence on the New York scene. And then there is the mystery of the violinist originally credited only as The Wizard. Speculation long ran rampant, with one eminent jazz critic declaring not only that it was Leroy Jenkins under a pseudonym, but "quite recognizable" as such. Consider that a compliment to Raymond Lee Cheng, whom we now know it to have been; he recorded with Lester Bowie two years later as Raymund Cheng. 

That is not the only discovery unveiled on ESP's 2008 reissue of this classic. ESP's Michael Anderson went into the vaults and discovered unreleased music that was edited out to fit the time confines of the LP. "In Trane's Name" is now 33:29 rather than 25:00; the Jarman-penned "Thulani" is 22:09 compared to 15:55. One listen quickly reveals that the glory of this album is thoroughly enhanced by the additional music.

Rashied Ali & Frank Lowe - 1972 - Duo Exchange

Rashied Ali & Frank Lowe
Duo Exchange 

01. Exchange - Part 1
02. Exchange - Part 2

Drums, Percussion – Rashied Ali
Tenor Saxophone, Flute [Japanese], Percussion – Frank Lowe

In what would appear to be a re-examination of 1967's landmark John Coltrane-Rashied Ali album 'Interstellar Space', the drummer Ali teams up with then up-and-coming (and now, sadly, recently deceased) tenor saxophonist Frank Lowe for two lengthy exchanges. And given that it was recorded only a few years after the original, one might hope to find some of the same power and spiritual energy. But power is largely lacking from this interesting yet ultimately frustrating release. Ali is fine - always impressive and so polyrhythmic it's easy to lose yourself amongst all the changes. And Frank Lowe, who would grow into a wonderful & unique style as he incorporated older techniques into his voice (catch him on Billy Bang's 'Valve No. 10', where he sounds like Coleman Hawkins half the time) builds up to quite an impressive burst of energy. But at times he seems to be searching about for ideas, and Ali doesn't seem able to help him out. Throughout this rather short album (it clocks in at less than thirty minutes), it often sounds as if the two men were playing in separate rooms, unaware of the others' presence. There's very little of the shared creativity that jazz often supplies. It's good that Knitting Factory has made this once-rare and out of print album available to fans, but it's probably only going to be essential listening for hard-core Rashied Ali fans and maybe Frank Lowe enthusaists.

A free jazz sax & drum duo in the vein of "Interstellar Space" (hell, there's even the same drummer on both), although I agree with stilton's comment that there are notable differences between the two.  Still, I listen to *a lot* of free jazz, and I'm guessing that those of you less accustomed to the genre wouldn't hear much difference... in any case, pretty much every record will be unique in various ways, even if the players try to exactly copy another.

Do you like your free jazz ferocious and intense?  Definitely check this out.  There isn't a moment of rest on this album - well, except when Lowe takes a break for Ali's rabid solos.