A Fireside Chat With Frank Lowe
“ You want to put them in a certain bin, but as far as putting ideas together, you just have this big pallet that you can draw from and you don?t have to separate these things. There is no thing that says you can?t put a purple beside a green or a white beside an orange. ”
In a prior life, I did buying for Tower Records. As a buyer, aside from the weekly visits from record reps pitching product, I would get requests from customers. One customer in particular thought he was king. A rather obnoxious long in the toother, this fella was old timing, giving me lectures on how Kenny G shouldn't be in the jazz section (as if the marquee on the storefront read something remotely similar to my name) and how he used to go and see Charlie Parker when he was a kid in Los Angeles. But when it came to record request, he kept harping on Frank Lowe. Now I knew of Lowe from his ESP record, Black Beings, which is the poo. But this old timer was chastising me for not having Bodies & Soul, a CIMP release, distributed by North Country, which is easy enough to deal with when you own the record store, but when you are a spoke in the stupidly large Tower wheel, it becomes almost an impossibility and in the year I was doing buying, I never got the record into the region. Fast forward to some months later and on a trip to San Francisco, I came across Amoeba (the Godsend of record stores) and behold, they had a copy and because that old timer had bugged the shit out of me, I picked it up. It was quite possibly the best record I heard that year and to this day, one of my favorites, leading me to explore and appreciate Lowe's work with Black Saint, Soul Note, Eminem, and No More. In fact, I have become somewhat of a Lowe aficionado, but not without good reason. Lowe can play a mean tenor. Through Michael Marcus, I was able to get Lowe on the Roadshow, and as always, I am honored to bring it to you, unedited and in his own words.
All About Jazz: Let's start from the beginning.
Frank Lowe: Basically, Fred, it was the sound of the instrument, like you're listening to a rock and roll record or a pop record. I noticed they always had the vocals, but I was always interested in the instruments that played after they finished singing, like when a saxophonist or a drummer took a solo, it always perked my ears up as a kid. In some kind of way, I was always drawn to that part of it. It was just an attraction like that. As a kid growing up, I always listened for who was always cool like The Coasters and James Brown and stuff like that. I always got off of them when the saxophonist or the trumpet player or the drummer took a solo. It was almost like they were talking too. It was almost like it was words for the instruments like it was words for the vocalists. It spoke to me like that as a real young kid. I could hear instruments talking just like I could hear vocalists talking. First it was alto and then the tenor, when I was around late twelve, thirteen is when I first starting dealing with it. As far as the tenor was concerned, Gene Ammons always had my ears locked up. I heard Gene Ammons.
My parents dug Count Basie and so that made a lot of Lester Young being played around my house. So I grew up with Lester Young in my ears even though there was a lot of Duke Ellington with Coleman Hawkins and Johnny Hodges and so forth. Some kind of way, the family I grew up in seemed to gravitate toward Count Basie and Louis Jordan. I had this Lester Young sound in my ears even though I didn't know it was Lester Young. So some kind of way, that pulled me towards Gene Ammons. I remember walking into this place where you could buy sodas and stuff when I was a really young kid like after school or something and they had this Gene Ammons record playing on the jukebox. It was some Soul Stirrin'. It was a Bennie Green thing. Bennie Green had a recording on Blue Note called Soul Stirrin' with Elvin Jones and Gene Ammons and Billy Root and Sonny Clark. And I heard Gene Ammons solo on that and I was flattened. It destroyed me, totally destroyed me and I was no more good. I was a tenor saxophone freak, probably before then, but that certified it. That just got me in. I was hearing Coltrane with Miles at the same time, but it was this Gene Ammons solo that I just had to try the tenor.
FJ: That should come as a cold shower to critics who assume you are coming from Trane or Albert Ayler.