Things we like
The absence in all but one case of Lowe's usual voluminous liner notes is indicative, perhaps, of a degree of explicatory exhaustion similar to that which befell FZ midway through his multi-volume You Can't Do That Onstage Anymore project. I Alone: The Everlasting Beauty of Monotony features the estimable pianist Matthew Shipp, half solo and half in group contexts, but is most notable to guitar freaks like your humble chronicler o' events for the presence of Michael Gregory Jackson on three tracks. There's more bop in his style than I remember from his '70s sides, and he does innaresting things with sustain and a whammy bar to boot. To these feedback-scorched ears, Shipp is heard to better advantage on Ballad for Albert, recorded a couple of months later, with a smaller ensemble.
Where A Cigarette is Smoked by Ten Men has Lowe playing vibrato-laden tenor as well as alto alongside clarinetist Zoe Christiansen, a player who combines modern ideas with a sound steeped in the history of her instrument. The spirit of Eric Dolphy is audibly present, both in the solos and in Lowe's writing. On We Will Gather When We Gather, featured guest Hamiet Bluiett fulminates with suppressed rage on baritone -- appropriate for a set that includes a dedication to the victims of the Charleston church shooting -- and coaxes fire from Lowe and tenorist Ras Moshe Burnett, but the big surprises are a trumpeter (Matt Lavelle) and guitarist (Ava Mendoza) who splatter and splinter their sounds in ways I respond to. Lowe's compositions here echo Mingus, with plenty of blues and blood in the mix.
The most forward-looking item in this series is also the oldest. Man With Guitar: Where's Robert Johnson? was recorded in 2013 and features Lowe alternating tracks on alto with ex-Miles sideman Gary Bartz in an ensemble that also includes both DJ Logic and Lowe mainstay Jake Millett on turntables and electronics, and Brian Simontacchi on trombone. Lowe always has a lot to say, and wants to share all of it. The net effect of this impulse is to reduce the likelihood that a lot of people will hear this music. A pity, as all of it is worth hearing. And We Will Gather When We Gather is essential.
2) Speaking of clarinet records, I've been quite enjoying one by the NYC-based saxophonist Sam Sadigursky, which he calls Follow the Stick. Not exactly an homage to Goodman-Hampton, Artie Shaw's Gramercy Five, Glenn Miller, and like that (although there is a cover of "String of Pearls" that updates that Miller Orchestra staple in the same way as Charlie Haden's Quartet West did for "Moonlight Serenade"), but more well-behaved than other latter-day practitioners of the "agony stick" like Dolphy/Braxton/Mitchell/John Carter/Don Byron. Best part is Sadigursky's graceful and elegant writing.
3) I go to very few shows these days, but January looks like it might be a big month for that, with Colorado prog giants Thinking Plague (see post below) coming to the Kessler on the 10th, X___X (CLE punk 'riginators including former Electric Eels/Mirrors/Rocket From the Tombs members, also reviewed elsewhere on this blog) and Obnox (modern day CLE punk beloved of Phil Overeem) at Rubber Gloves on the 20th, and my 'riginal guitar inspiration Nils Lofgren solo acoustic at the Kessler on the 30th. Yowzah! Meanwhile, next Friday (Oct. 20), Hush Puppy has the mighty FOGG (whom I've meant to see for a few months now) at formerly fonky Fred's along with the always exhilerating Fungi Girls, and headliners Quintron and Miss Pussycat. Maybe I'll even eat one of Damien Grober's stylin' hot dogs this time.
4) Also in rotation in the car: Fontanelle's Vitamin F, a startlingly accurate evocation of electric Miles Davis, played by Seattle dudes who record for doom metal label Southern Lord; Richie Duvall and Dog Truck, an indie '73 release by a bunch of slightly older-than-me cats from Long Island, playing jazz-rock from the moment before that of necessity meant fusion (imagine boarding the Chicago Transit Authority and getting off in Canterbury); and the Who's A Quick One, which I once thought was their worst album (I couldn't see It's Hard coming), but now find charming, documenting (particularly with the bonus-track addition of the Ready Steady Who EP and an Everly Brothers cover that could have been written for the 'orrible 'oo) a period when they might have become a surf cover band with Moon singing lead, and Entwistle's bass dominated their sound in a way it wouldn't once PT got his guitar tone together.