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A Fireside Chat With Frank Lowe

By Published: January 26, 2003

FL: Well, Fred, Albert Ayler is one of my favorite people. I think of music as 360 degrees. I think of it as, like Von Freeman is like one of my favorite saxophonists on the planet because Von Freeman plays the ultimate. Von Freeman plays totally great inside and outside. That's, as you might say, that is what I want to be when I grow up. Von Freeman is eighty years old and to me, he is the best saxophonist on the planet because Von deals with both the inside and the outside of the music. He don't run from any part of it and he does them both well. That's where I come from. You can call it avant-garde. You can call it hard bop. You can call it soul, but I dig the whole spectrum, the outside and inside, the Albert Ayler part of it, the Johnny Griffin part of it, the King Curtis part of it, the Boots Randolph 'Yakety Sax,' part of it. I like it all, Fred. I come from all. I don't dismiss none of that stuff. On this recent LP I got, I did this tune that some people might call country and western. It was a Patsy Cline/Willie Nelson (Cline sang and Nelson wrote) called 'Crazy.'

FJ: The Nashville theme song.

FL: You dig? I recorded that. I think of music like that. I love that tune. It's the one coming out on CIMP that I just finished and it is on that one. It has Michael Carvin on drums, Bern Nix on guitar, and Dominic Duval on bass and myself on tenor. It is called Lowe Down and Blue.

FJ: Not to be confused with Lowe and Behold.

FL: Yeah, yeah.

FJ: And your tenure with Alice Coltrane.

FL: Well, actually, I was staying in San Francisco and I met Ornette Coleman, Mr. Ornette Coleman. This was the second time that Ornette had been through San Francisco, but this was when I decided to let Ornette know what I was trying to do musically. He became aware of it and he told me that I should come to New York. After he said those words, I moved to New York. I was moving to New York, I thought, to study with Ornette, but Ornette had me come over to his house and I played this music that he had out. He called it the tenor harmolodic chart. So I played this piece of music and then he told me that really more than studying, I needed to work. It was through Ornette that I hooked up with Alice Coltrane. It was through Mr. Ornette Coleman that I became part of Ms. Alice Coltrane's band and I am forever grateful for that.

I remember the gig that I did was at the Berkeley Jazz Festival in Berkeley, right outside of San Francisco. It was like I had just left Berkeley two weeks before and to come back with Alice Coltrane was like a dream come true. The band, at that time, consisted of Archie Shepp, Jimmy Garrison, Clifford Jarvis, Alice and myself. I was in heaven, Fred. As a kid, I was a Coltrane freak and a Sonny Rollins freak too. I was just into the tenor saxophone, but my ears had always been open to Wayne Shorter and Coltrane. It was part of my being. It was just part of my natural being. When I was coming up, most of the tenor saxophone players, they were trying to get their Coltrane licks together. I guess it is still like that. He was so dominate in the music. I was just lucky that my first professional band happened to be in Ms. Alice Coltrane's band. I always look on it as a blessing. It was just a gift. I learned so much from Alice. I got a chance to study the music of John Coltrane really right up close, as close as you probably could get. It was a blessing to me because after that, I did my first recording with Ms. Coltrane, an Impulse! thing called World Galaxy and I was just glad to be a part of it. Later I met Don Cherry and he was the first one to take me to Europe. I record on an orchestra record he did called Relativity Suite. Then there was something called Brown Rice.

FJ: Don Cherry was exploring Indian and Arabic music during that period.

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