All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review


Lester Bowie: American Gumbo

Jim Santella By

Sign in to view read count
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


comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Fill Up Your Lungs and Bellow CD/LP/Track Review
Fill Up Your Lungs and Bellow
by Tyran Grillo
Published: March 22, 2018
Read Transatlantic CD/LP/Track Review
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: March 22, 2018
Read Criss Cross CD/LP/Track Review
Criss Cross
by Roger Farbey
Published: March 22, 2018
Read So Far CD/LP/Track Review
So Far
by Mark Corroto
Published: March 22, 2018
Read Wherever You're Starting From CD/LP/Track Review
Wherever You're Starting From
by Troy Dostert
Published: March 21, 2018
Read Live in Miami @ the WDNA Jazz Gallery CD/LP/Track Review
Live in Miami @ the WDNA Jazz Gallery
by Jerome Wilson
Published: March 21, 2018
Read "The Fever: The Remastered Epic Recordings" CD/LP/Track Review The Fever: The Remastered Epic Recordings
by Doug Collette
Published: April 9, 2017
Read "Open Borders" CD/LP/Track Review Open Borders
by Jack Bowers
Published: January 14, 2018
Read "Haberdashery" CD/LP/Track Review Haberdashery
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 18, 2017
Read "Music in the Room" CD/LP/Track Review Music in the Room
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 10, 2017
Read "Concert Of The Century" CD/LP/Track Review Concert Of The Century
by Mark E. Gallo
Published: August 10, 2017
Read "In The Past" CD/LP/Track Review In The Past
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 2, 2017