Frank Lowe / June 24, 1943 - Sept 19, 2003

Happy birthday shout to one of the unsung tenor men of the second wave of US free jazz, "Freedom" Frank Lowe. His lyricism was not limited to the avant-garde as he cut some great, swinging records that touched upon free, post-bop, R&B and other influences. Memphis born and reared, he took lessons from Stax Records' saxophonist Packy Axton, as well as working in the label's record shop and studio. After school he moved to San Francisco for further studies with Bert Wilson and Sonny Simmons.

Some encouragement from Ornette Coleman persuaded Lowe to move to NYC in the late '60s and he was quickly playing with Alice Coltrane and Sun Ra. Alice's World Galaxy was his recorded debut before he cut a duo album with John Coltrane's last drummer Rashied Ali (Duo Exchange) and the 1973 classic ripper Black Beings (William Parker's recorded debut!). He may have come out of the gate with his fire-spitting sand-blasted sax screaming away like a punk Pharoah Sanders but his long career proved a much wider range than that initial landing. 1975's Fresh flirted with R&B and Don Cherry collaborated with him on a few records. His one-sided duo album with drummer Philip Wilson for Sonic Youth's Ecstatic Peace label (Out of Nowhere, 1993) displayed a tender ballad. Some excellent late '90s material for CIMP found him working in very concise, short, lyrical tunes touching on various themes.

He also cut albums with Billy Bang, Joe McPhee, Jazz Composers Orchestra, Noah Howard, Eugene Chadbourne, James Carter and others, in small group, duo and large ensemble settings, and kept up a concert pace toward the end of his life. And he played an unaccompanied solo for me upon request at a concert that came out on No More Records (2001's Soul Folks).

Tagged: avant-garde, Celebrate Icons, Don Cherry, Frank Lowe, jazz, Memphis, out-jazz, Rashied Ali, reeds, soul/funk

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