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Frank Lowe: Black Beings

Jerry D'Souza By

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The age of the LP was often one of compromise for jazz musicians. Given the restrictions on playing time, recordings had to be edited to fit. This meant a loss of ideas and of development with the truncated versions being shadows of the whole. The emergence of the CD has seen the revival of music with the whole performance included. Sometimes the edits were better, but many times the complete picture brings in a deeper dimension and impact. The latter sensibility grabs this recording which has fifteen minutes added to "In Trane's Name" and "Thulani."

Recorded in 1973, Frank Lowe (tenor saxophone) pulled in Joseph Jarman (soprano and alto saxophones) and William Parker (bass) to fly into the eye of free jazz. Lowe was into the music after John Coltrane's Ascension (Impulse!, 1965), and the influence and impact can be felt right through. Lowe went out on a musical limb here; the genre was not a long-term residence for him.

It all opens quietly enough with "In Trane's Name." Lowe plays with control, giving the melody its due, but when the tune erupts, the power and the force are incendiary. Both Lowe and Jarman propel and edge the music onwards, fermenting and brewing ideas on the go. There is howl and yell and intensely volatile notes shooting into the stratosphere. Jarman hits the high squiggles, squeezing out the notes, the torque tight. Lowe swipes a broader swath as he gets into a conversation with Jarman, if that's what the charged atmosphere can be called. Give the band credit though for not letting the tune spiral out of control, they bring it down, cooling the pace for the mid-section.

"Thulani" is another agitated progression, with Lowe and Jarman moving on different planes; the former is steady on the beat and the melody, the later unfurls a whorl of free motifs. But it is not long before Lowe dives into the pith and tears form apart.

Parker and Rashid Sinan (drums) are an energetic and propulsive rhythm section. As for The Wizard on violin, it is Raymond Lee Chang and not Leroy Jenkins, whose playing informs Chang through a few shimmering lines on his solo outing during "Thulani," a waft of freshness in the heat. But he, too, is caught in the turmoil most of the way.

Black Beings serves as an historical document and stopping-off point in the musical legacy of Lowe, showing a rare side of the musician.


Track Listing: In Trane's Name; Brother Joseph; Thulani.

Personnel: Joseph Jarman: soprano and alto saxophones; Frank Lowe: tenor saxophone; The Wizard (Raymond Lee Chang): violin; William Parker: bass; Rashid Sinan: drums.

Title: Black Beings | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: ESP Disk


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