Frank Lowe: The Loweski (2013)
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Producer Michael Anderson has unearthed yet more music from the ESP-disk vaults to complement tenor saxophonist Frank Lowe's Black Beings (ESP-disk, 1974), the session which announced the Memphis-born reedman's arrival as leader on the NYC jazz scene. Recorded at the same date, reputed to be from Ornette Coleman's Prince Street loft, The Loweski adds another 37-minutes of quintessential fire music to his legacy. Lowe was a very different proposition then to his mature persona, coming out of late period John Coltrane and Albert Ayler, rather than the melodic though bracingly off-kilter phrasing which evoked shades of Chu Berry and Ben Webster in his later years.
Six minutes of solo saxophone sorcery open the disc in a masterpiece of structure and intent that wouldn't be out of place in saxophonist Anthony Braxton's back catalogue: gentle trills sloping into a silence broken by strident shrieks. But is it Joseph Jarman on alto or the leader on tenor? My first thoughts were the latter, but it's hard to pin down, and other reviewers elsewhere seem equally divided. Whoever, they get the continuous performance, helpfully demarcated into five cuts, off to a blazing start. This quandary of sonic signature gives a hint of one of the only reservations, as the sound quality becomes decidedly murky at times. That's particularly the case as both horns kick in on "Part 2," supplemented by Raymond Lee Cheng's violin sawing along with the hyperactive bustle of the 21-year old William Parker on bass (in his first recorded appearance) and Rashid Sinan on drums. Jarman introduces the loosely synchronised staccato lead into the extended slow tones of the Chicagoan's title cut from the Art Ensemble Of Chicago's Fanfare for the Warriors (Atlantic, 1974) which serves to briefly douse the flames though only to set up a further exposition of overblown screams from Lowe's tenor, latterly in virtual duet with thunderous drum rolls from Sinan, as they largely drown out Parker's bowing.
On "Part 3," Cheng (originally billed as The Wizard, leading to all sorts of erroneous guesses as to his true identity) takes up the cause on amplified violin, strummed and plucked to resemble an electric guitar purveying a percussive flow of abrasive astringency. When he can be heard, Parker gives an insight into what was to come as his fat sound elevates and propels the saxophones. The concluding section finds the twin horns coalescing around soothing long tones, with Parker wielding his bow in conversational counterpoint. Despite brief flurries, amid hints of Jarman's theme from "Part 2," as well as the trills which contributed to the fabric of "Part 1," the interaction eventually leads into a reflective seesawing drone with percussion commentary, which provides an unlikely finale as the piece fades out. With Lowe no longer around, every addition to his discography has a significance, so 37-minutes from his prime should set pulses racing among those who like their jazz served hot.
Track Listing: The Loweski Part 1; The Loweski Part 2; The Loweski Part 3; The Loweski Part 4; The Loweski Part 5.
Personnel: Frank Lowe: tenor saxophone; Joseph Jarman: soprano and alto saxophones; Raymond Lee Cheng (The Wizard): violin; William Parker: bass; Rashid Sinan: drums.
Record Label: ESP Disk
Style: Modern Jazz