237

Lester Bowie: American Gumbo

Jim Santella By

Sign in to view read count
Lester Bowie: American Gumbo This two-disc package from 32 Jazz includes two fine albums from Muse Records: Fast Last! and Rope-A-Dope, which were recorded in 1974 and ’75 respectively. Both albums reflect the style of an emerging leader, a founding member of the AACM & Art Ensemble of Chicago, and a champion of the jazz avant-garde. Specific elements such as fingers running across the piano’s inside strings, scratchy bowed bass melodies, horn squeals and random squawks reflect the changes brought about in the name of creativity. It’s often stated that yesterday’s avant-garde is today’s mainstream; yet, Bowie’s thirty-year-old creations continue to stand at the fringes of jazz.

Acknowledging a deep respect for "the beat" or "the groove" in his work, Bowie has always provided something pleasant and familiar along with the unexpected. The albums contain some noise, such as on Julius Hemphill’s "Banana Whistle." Ornette Coleman’s dirge-like "Lonely Woman" bogs down and weighs heavily as a ballad sometimes can. Bowie’s up-tempo "Fast Last" with Hemphill’s "C" affords each member of the small ensemble an opportunity to engage in individual creative improvisation. Both "Fast Last" and "Mirage" contain reflections of a late 1950s Miles Davis along with lighthearted melodic lines that resemble Gershwin’s "An American In Paris." The title "F Troop Rides Again" has all the earmarks of a comedy number, but that’s not the case here. The trumpeter works alone with three drummers to create a serene offering akin to the cavalry’s bugle calls with crisp snare drum military cadence. "The St. Louis Blues" is performed with its easy-to-recognize-anywhere melody, but Bowie has his ensemble add percussion hijinks. "Hello Dolly" is performed with nothing more than John Hicks’ straight-laced piano accompaniment alongside Bowie’s unique half-valve voice. "Rope-A-Dope" paints the dramatic portrait of a Muhammad Ali championship bout. The rhythm section members, headed up by Don Moye’s conga drums, move mechanically back and forth, back and forth, waiting for the right moment. Periodically, trumpet and trombone push the opponent up against the ropes in anguish. Near the end, you can hear the loser saying, "I quit!" Fortunately, Lester Bowie hasn’t quit. His Odyssey Of Funk & Popular Music, Volume 2 is expected to be available later this year.


Title: American Gumbo | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Jazz Anthology


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Roll On CD/LP/Track Review Roll On
by Jack Bowers
Published: July 25, 2017
Read BACHanalia CD/LP/Track Review BACHanalia
by Jerome Wilson
Published: July 25, 2017
Read Pandora's Bag CD/LP/Track Review Pandora's Bag
by Geannine Reid
Published: July 25, 2017
Read Float The Edge CD/LP/Track Review Float The Edge
by Glenn Astarita
Published: July 25, 2017
Read The Attic CD/LP/Track Review The Attic
by John Sharpe
Published: July 24, 2017
Read Outside The Comfort Zone CD/LP/Track Review Outside The Comfort Zone
by Roger Farbey
Published: July 24, 2017
Read "Alcanza" CD/LP/Track Review Alcanza
by Troy Dostert
Published: May 25, 2017
Read "Presence" CD/LP/Track Review Presence
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 13, 2017
Read "The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture" CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read "South Beat" CD/LP/Track Review South Beat
by Edward Blanco
Published: September 6, 2016
Read "Rough Boundaries" CD/LP/Track Review Rough Boundaries
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: July 31, 2016
Read "Dreaming With Eyes Wide Awake" CD/LP/Track Review Dreaming With Eyes Wide Awake
by Roger Farbey
Published: December 5, 2016

Support All About Jazz: MAKE A PURCHASE  

Support our sponsor

Upgrade Today!

Musician? Boost your visibility at All About Jazz and drive traffic to your website with our Premium Profile service.

Donate!