Frank Lowe

Lowe-down & Blue

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An icon of '60s-style free jazz, Frank Lowe is one of the few giants of yesteryear to ply his trade uncompromisingly for so many decades. While his output since the 1990s is erratic due in large part to ill health, this intriguing recording succeeds because of the mix of instrumentalists and the focused blowing by Lowe. The saxophonist is in decent form, and he appears inspired by longtime colleague Michael Carvin, a drummer who goes back to the 1960s with Lowe. Equally impressive is the stunning bass work of Dominic Duval, who had never worked before with any of the other musicians in the group, and the soloing of adventurous guitarist Bern Nix, who had only recorded once before with Lowe, when each had been a sideman on Jayne Cortez's Everywhere Drums. There is a good mix of tunes here, too -- about half by Lowe and the others lesser-known melodies by top writers, including Dewey Redman's "Dewey's Tune," Don Cherry's "Cherryco," and Grachan Moncur III's "Riff Raff." While there is a sense of minimalism throughout (Lowe says in his "artist's notes" that he is a follower of Wayne Shorter's "less is more concept" and that he learned from the Art Ensemble of Chicago's People in Sorrow that "music can be subtle and soft and still 'kick ass'"), the results can be enchanting once you get used to the saxophonist's laid-back, stuttered style.

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