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The year separating Thanksgivings of 2013 and 2014 has abounded in historic reissues and discoveries. There are several from idiosyncratic bandleader Sun Ra in addition to ones from saxophonists John Coltrane, Clifford Jordan and Charles Lloyd. And of course there are such gems as the third volume of trumpeter Miles Davis' Fillmore bootlegs and clarinetist/saxophonist Jimmy Giuffre's New York Concerts on Elemental Music.
Among such wealth it would be easy to overlook the limited edition, vinyl only release of saxophonist and flutist Frank Lowe's Out Loud. The never before heard pair of recordings from 1974 features Lowe's working quartet of the time, a power house of an ensemble who stretched the boundaries of free jazz with raw passion and superb technical prowess.
"Whew!" that opens the second disc is from a live session at Studio RivBea in New York and is a fiery, breathtaking artistic expression that expresses a range of emotions from the exuberant to the outraged. Lowe's honking, screeching tenor lets loose a searing flood of a sonic thrill that trombonist Joseph Bowie's thick, reverberating growl matches with intensity and eloquence. The pair manages to maintain a palpable melodic sense that bassist William Parker's haunting, exchanges of plucked and bowed strings underscore. Together with drummer Steve Reid's thunderous polyrhythms the group imbues the music with a unique and stimulating blend of primal spiritualism
On the D side of this concert, on a piece called "Untitled 3" trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah makes a guest appearance. The Sun Ra sideman brings a deep sense of unfettered lyricism and quiet melancholy contrasting nicely with Lowe's pleading, roaring tone.
The first LP documents a studio date that opens with contemplative yet fierce extemporization "Untitled 1." Parker's unaccompanied resonating strings lay down a tight solo that ushers in a thrilling harmonic explosion. Lowe's freewheeling and imaginative improvisation overlaps with Bowie's in a dual steam of consciousness monologues. Lowe switches to flute on "Vivid Description" and his sonorous, short phrases and his chanting bring in hints of African music.
Side B augments this old world feel as Lowe's rolling balafon strikes match Reid's percolating drum kit. Later, both Lowe and Bowie alternate hand percussion with their primary instruments. Bowie's ardent, rumbling moan and Lowe's serpentine soprano meander among the hypnotic thuds and beats.
Out Loud may not be the most significant reissue of the year but it is certainly one of the rarest and most intriguing. With its sumptuously designed package, rare photographs, online link to videos and informative liner notes it is an unearthed gem for which open eared listeners are definitely grateful.
Side A: Untitled 1; Vivid Description; Side B: Listen; Untitled 2; Logical Extensions; Side
Whew!; Side D: Untitled 3; Closing Announcement.
Frank Lowe: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute, voice, percussion, congas,
whistles, harmonics, miscellaneous small instruments; Joseph Bowie: trombone, congas;
William Parker: bass; Steve Reid: drums; Ahmed Abdullah: trumpet (Side D).