Saturday, November 18, 2006
In Praise of Lester Bowie
This may well turn out to be a series 'in praise of ' trumpet players and composers that have influenced me.
Lester Bowie dressed like a lab attendant or sometimes a pastry chef. He was the purveyor of “serious fun’ a lineage that come out of Louis Armstrong.
To me Lester Bowie was a font of brilliant iconoclastic trumpeting ideas. I saw him in London playing solo trumpet with an all male African choir. The impact of this performance on me at the time was to show me alternate routes for the improvising trumpet.
His notion was to expand the vocabulary of the trumpet: to imbue this noble with a depth of emotive language. One critic called his music ‘a hybrid, with roots and branches of varying hues’. But what has attracted me is his tone that speaks so full of the joy and sadness of life.
Lester joined Roscoe Mitchell , Joseph Jarman (woodwinds), Malachi Favors Maghostut (bass), and eventually, Famoudou Don Moye (percussion) in the Art Ensemble of Chicago , among the most influential and creative groups in modern music. They’ve been playing for over 3 decades and, if you haven’t heard them, download some tunes and listen to them.
Some of his solo efforts for ECM included such gems as “Miles Davis meets Donald Duck” and the sublime “Everything Must Change” sung by his wife Fontella Bass.
Lester’s final venture was the "avant pop" of Brass Fantasy. Made up of assorted trumpets, trombones, French Horns, tuba and drums, it played a crazy mix of free jazz, standards of decades past, funk, Latin, R&B. One brilliant track is an angry arrangement of Strange Fruit made soon after the LA riots in the early 1990’s.
Lester died on Nov 8 1999 and I think that day should be a Serious Fun public holiday.