A tenor saxophonist influenced by John Coltrane,
Frank Lowe (1943), a Memphis native who relocated from San Francisco to New York in 1966, participated
in Alice Coltrane's World Galaxy ((november 1971) and
Don Cherry's Relativity Suite (february 1973).
After a creative Duo Exchange (september 1972) with percussionist Rashied Ali, Lowe debuted
as a leader with Black Beings (march 1973), leading a quintet with
saxophonist Joseph Jarman, bassist William Parker, violin and drums that
careened through Lowe's 25-minute In Trane's Name
and Jarman's Thulani.
The posthumous The Loweski (march 1973) adds a 37-minute recording from the same session.
After Fresh (march 1975), a skewed tribute to Thelonious Monk with
trumpeter Lester Bowie, trombonist Joseph Bowie, cellist Abdul Wadud and
drummer Charles Bobo Shaw, Lowe achieved his personal form of
free-jazz on The Flam (october 1975), unleashing his energetic
the 14-minute Flam and the ten-minute Third St Stomp
in the company of
Joseph Bowie, trumpeter Leo Smith, bassist Alex Blake and Shaw.
The unreleased 1974 recordings of Lowe's quartet with Joseph Bowie (trombone), William Parker (bass) and Steve Reid (drums), plus guest trumpestist Ahmed Abdullah, surfaced on Out Loud (Triple Point, 2014)
A quartet with Butch Morris on cornet recorded
Tricks of the Trade (december 1976), containing
The Other Side (december 1976), while
Olu Dara and Leo Smith on trumpets helped out on
Doctor Too-Much (may 1977), containing
his signature theme Doctor Too-Much.
These recordings boasted a creative ebullience that harked back to the heydays
of free jazz.
Lowe began to move beyond free jazz with the
(including Joseph Bowie, Butch Morris, Billy Bang, guitarist Eugene Chadbourne, alto saxophonist John Zorn)
that he assembled for
Lowe And Behold (october 1977). The 14-minute Heart in Hand and
the 13-minute Heavy Drama presented a masterful composer and arranger
disguised as a free improviser (under the influence of Morris rather than Coltrane).
And Morris helped arrange again the sprightly compositions of both
Skizoke (march 1981), for saxophone, cornet, vibraphone, guitar, bass
(Originals, The Skizoke, Some Do Some Don't, Close to the Soul),
and Exotic Heartbreak (october 1981), for a quintet
with Morris, pianist Amina Claudine Myers, bass and drums
(the bluesy Exotic Heartbreak).
Lowe also played in the Jazz Doctors, a free-bop quartet with Billy Bang,
that released Intensive Care (august 1983).
Generally speaking, his music was becoming less revolutionary and more
respectful of the tradition. In fact,
a spectacular sextet with trumpeter Don Cherry, trombonist Grachan Moncur and pianist Geri Allen, ended up cutting his most conservative album,
Decision In Paradise (september 1984), with Dues and Don'ts.
The Saxemple documented on Inappropriate Choices (april 1991),
a four-reed ensemble featuring
baritone saxophonist James Carter, bass saxophonist Michael Marcus, alto saxophonist Carlos Ward and drummer Phillip Wilson
(but they played a total of eleven instruments),
was basically Lowe's response to the success of the World Saxophone Quartet,
displaying, yet again, a less radical side of Lowe
(Loweology and Fuchsia Norval).
The ensemble later expanded to six reeds but SaxEmble (may 1995) was
largely uneventful, mixing bebop, free jazz and rhythm'n'blues.
After the conventional sax-bass-drums trios of Bodies & Soul (november 1995) and Vision Blue (february 1997), paying tribute to the giants of free jazz while toying with pop, soul and world music,
the quintet with piano and trumpet of the live Soul Folks (february 1998) marked an attempt to refocus his program on composition
(Tubby's Night Out, Eddie's Dream, Ms Bertha's Arrival).
Lowe contributed Times Squared and Show Real to the new edition of
the Jazz Doctors on One for Jazz (2001)
credited to the Billy Bang Quartet.
Lowe died in 2003.
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