Here’s a 2003 interview with Frank Lowe, months before his death from lung cancer.
He offers some terrific insight into his early musical education, living in Memphis. Musically, Lowe grew up influenced by the jazz and R&B greats of the ’50s but also by the rising New Thing, and he describes how he doesn’t even separate the two in his mind.
For example, he cites a deep respect for Hank Crawford and for Ray Charles’ band as a whole. “It was like R&B going into progressive jazz,” he says. “They were playing hip stuff, just as hip as anybody playing with the big bands.”
He goes on to cite Crawford’s “Four Five + Six,” which appears on Lowe’s album Inappropriate Choices (ITM, 1991) with the Saxemple. Here’s James Carter blowing baritone sax over that track’s blues changes:
The Saxemple was a heck of a project: Four horns and a drummer, reveling in the pre-rock-‘n’-roll sounds of early R&B and dosing it with the occasional modern touch. Lowe, Carter, Michael Marcus, and Carlos Ward swung together in tight unison, aided by drummer Phillip Wilson. The joy in the music shines through.
A jazz musician’s life isn’t an easy one, and Lowe’s was cut short unfairly. But based on that interview and albums like the Saxemple’s, it sounds like he had a lot of fun playing his music. That’s a triumph.
Hat tip: Richard Scheinin on Twitter.