Allen Lowe

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Historian, composer, and tenor saxophonist Lowe is the rare jazz musician with an overtly literary bent. His output has included a jazz adaptation of the Georg Buchner play Woyzeck (also the source of…
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Artist Biography by

Historian, composer, and tenor saxophonist Lowe is the rare jazz musician with an overtly literary bent. His output has included a jazz adaptation of the Georg Buchner play Woyzeck (also the source of the Alban Berg opera), a record dedicated to Bertold Brecht, as well as an album-length tribute to Louis Armstrong. His knowledge of jazz is leavened by a more than passing interest in other creative disciplines, especially experimental theatre. Lowe was born and raised in Massapequa, Long Island (a high school classmate was saxophonist/composer Phillip Johnston). In his teens, Lowe played in various jazz and rock bands. He played occasional gigs in while his 20s, without making music his profession. He wrote criticism, organized festivals, and taught jazz history, in addition to working a variety of non-music jobs. In 1983 he dedicated himself to playing his own music, and began composing for and performing with such New York-area musicians such as Roswell Rudd, David Murray, and Doc Cheatham. His Armstrong tribute, Mental Strain at Dawn, was recorded (mostly) live at the Knitting Factory with Lowe's Jack Purvis Memorial Orchestra -- named after a long-forgotten early jazz trumpeter. Lowe's records have been critically acclaimed, but the relatively esoteric and individualistic nature of his music have apparently worked against him from a commercial perspective. Lowe is also a sound restoration specialist; he's done mastering work for Michael Feinstein's radio series on the music of George Gershwin, and for the nine CD set American Pop from Minstrel to Mojo: On Record, 1893-1946 (he also authored the accompanying book). Lowe was also an audio and historical consultant Ken Burns public television documentary, Jazz.