Lester Bowie

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Krentz Ratings:
Numbers 1 and 2 (1967), 7/10
Fast Last (1974), 6/10
Rope-A-Dope (1975), 6/10
The Fifth Power (1978), 6/10
African Children (1978), 7/10
The Great Pretender (1981), 5/10
All the Magic (1982), 5/10
I Only Have Eyes for You (1985), 5/10
Avant Pop (1986), 5/10
Mudfoot (1986), 5.5/10
Out Here Like This (1987), 5.5/10
Unforeseen Blessings (1988), 5/10

Unlike his cohorts in the Art Ensemble Of Chicago, trumpeter Lester Bowie (1941), who relocated from St Louis to Chicago in 1965, was grounded in the jazz tradition. Unlike Roscoe Mitchell, Bowie maintained a close relationship with the idea of music as fun. In a sense, he represented Mitchell's alter-ego, complementing the partner's classical ambitions with a more populist approach. Nonetheless, Bowie was one of the most daring trumpters of his generation, and one of the few to adopt free jazz, capable of producing a broad range of sounds. Bowie's debut album, Numbers 1 & 2 (august 1967), contained two lengthy free-form jams that basically previewed the Art Ensemble Of Chicago (one is a trio with bassist Malachi Favors and saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell, and the other one is a quartet with Joseph Jarman). His sense of humour emerged from Fast Last (september 1974), an odd collection of different styles, highlighted (on the serious front) by a duet with altoist Julius Hemphill, the 13-minute Fast Last C, and Rope-A-Dope (june 1975), with Favors, Don Moye, drummer Charles Bobo Shaw and trombonist Joseph Bowie. These albums amply betrayed his tender love for blues and gospel music, a love that blossomed on The Fifth Power (1978), a quintet featuring altoist Arthur Blythe, pianist Amina Myers, Favors and drummer Philip Wilson that reworked a gospel traditional into an 18-minute juggernaut; while the same quintet crafted the double LP African Children (april 1978) that synthesized all his disparate influences and moods in 20-minute pieces such as Amina, Chili MacDonald and For Fela. The Great Pretender (june 1981) marked the beginning of his conversion to a more radio-friendly form of gospel-jazz-rock fusion, that, despite the parenthesis of All the Magic (june 1982), whose second disc is a suite of brief satirical trumpet solos, led to Bowie's artistic demise. Whether it was a case of crossover or sell-out, the Brass Fantasy (a brass octet of four trumpets, two trombones, French horn and tuba plus a drummer) that debuted with I Only Have Eyes for You (february 1985) and Avant Pop (march 1986) ended up playing mainly pop, jazz, funk and blues covers. The best original material was provided by trombonist Steve Turre.

Bowie was also a member of the Leaders, a supergroup formed by tenor saxophonist Chico Freeman with alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe, pianist Kirk Lightsey, bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Don Moye that debuted with Mudfoot (june 1986). Their second album Out Here Like This (february 1987) contained Bowie's Zero. Bowie rejoined them for Unforeseen Blessings (december 1988).

Lester Bowie died in 1999.

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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