A Fireside Chat With Frank Lowe
FL: Don doing stuff like what they call world music, I think Don kind of invented that. He's the father of that. I think Don played a big part in bring that to the attention of the music public at large. Sometimes they call it fusion, but let me tell you, Fred, I hear music like this. What Don was doing was like he was putting like soul, funk, with what somebody might call avant-garde, with some ethnic music. Don has heard all these musics and he put them together and they made one music out of it and that is what I think it is. I think it is one music. If you are creative enough to put these things together and make them groove, that's what it is. That's the way I always heard it. I don't see no separation in these things. I think if you put them together and you make one beautiful piece of listening material from it, what law says these things have to have these categories? They are good to classify to sell recordings. 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. That is what I think. And at the same time, you don't do it just to put stuff together. These are great idioms, like hard bop is one of the most difficult musics, bebop and stuff is the Bible of so called improvisational music. So it is no joke. When you do that, you study it. You have to do your best with it and you bring out the best in the music itself. You do it justice.
FJ: Justice was had on your ESP record, Black Beings.
FL: Oh, yeah, I was lucky. I liked to be on that label because my favorite people were on that label like Pharoah and Albert Ayler and Sun Ra. I got in on the tail end of it. That was my idea of being out at that time. Coltrane had recorded Ascension, so I was starting from Ascension and going towards nirvana. But I only did one recording like that because it is not the kind of feeling that you can reproduce all the time. It was something I wanted to get into and explore, but it is not something that I would tackle everyday. That color can become monotonous and a bit redundant, but it is always good to give it that old college try. That's what I did and that's what it was. It was for that time and for that situation.
FJ: Black Beings is no college try. It is a graduate thesis. But who is The Wizard (unnamed violin player often incorrectly cited as Leroy Jenkins)?
FL: It's a guy named Raymund Cheng, a violinist. He is on Lester Bowie's CD called Rope-A-Dope. That's Raymund Cheng.
FJ: And a young William Parker is featured.
FL: I was playing with William then. William has always been a really great bassist, really great, creative, and strong. I was playing with Don Cherry and he came around and he was sitting in and I dug William's sound. I was deeply into the Art Ensemble at the time, so you notice the first CDs that I did under my name, that ESP CD had Joseph Jarman on it. Fresh (Black Lion) had Lester Bowie and the first one on Soul Note/Black Saint (The Flam) had Leo Smith on it. It had these AACM cats on it because I had this deep understanding that the affiliation, I just liked to hook up those of my peers. I was coming right where they were coming from and so that was the hook up for me. Guys like that appeared on my first six, seven, eight records. It's got that Mid-Western thing, cats from Chicago and St. Louis, Lester Bowie, Joe Bowie, Bobo Shaw, Leo Smith, Olu Dara. You see where I am coming from? That is how I grew being fortunate to come through a Coltrane university, I was just exploring what the next people in line to me were, like Lester and Roscoe Mitchell. They seemed to be the next people to really add something to the music.
FJ: In the midst of this Art Ensemble fixation, you recorded a duo with Eugene Chadbourne, Don't Punk Out, which Emanem has reissued.
FL: Oh, yeah, I am into, some of those colors I got from Derek Bailey and Anthony Braxton. I have always been into Braxton. Braxton was part, it is this mathematician thing. I think we did fourteen tunes on there. I recently did something like that again with a bassist named Bernard Santacruz, but it was more romantic, a bit more melodic. I believed that if there was going to be some avant-garde stuff happening, I believed like you could compartmentalize it. You didn't have to have those long stretches of tunes. You could make them like a minute and a half and have them brief and have them concise and tell a story real good. Get in and get out. I was trying to show an example of that, that the music didn't have to be long and drawn out. You could make these little statements, these miniature statements and they could be very strong and creative and you could capsulate everything you wanted to say in two minutes.
FJ: The longest tune is barely over five minutes.