Mundell Lowe live at the new Dizzy's
Age is just a number for the remarkable guitarist, who keeps it real, relevant, and in the moment.
At 90 years sold, and a veteran of the swing and bebop era's of jazz, I'll bet guitarist Mundell Lowe isn't often placed in the free-jazz category.
But after catching his show last night at the new Dizzy's, I couldn't help but draw some parallels. Although he basically stays within the constricts of Western harmony, ( but not always —and not slavishly), and deals with material from the Great American Songbook and the bebop canon — everything else about Lowe's performing aesthetic seems remarkably free to me.
He begins many songs with a solo, rubato cadenza, crafting beautiful chord-melody constructs from thin air, rarely counts out a tune — creates alternate options for harmonic progressions at will — and frequently stretches the notion of what note can be played against any given chord. He also does this without benefit of sheet music!
He relies on the musicians he's playing with to pick up on his cues--and with guitarist Ron Eschete, bassist Rob Thorsen and drummer Jim Plank along for the ride--the reliance paid off. Lowe's approach is so relaxed, and loose that the occasional "clam" is sort of a welcome "proof-positive" that the mission of creating in-the-moment was very, very real. What's additionally amazing is that Lowe is never thrown by such issues--he knows how to turn a "wrong" note into a right one.
"I Remember You," began with Lowe drawing the melody out over the gentle swirl of Plank's brushes in buoyant support. Eschete soloed first, bopping along with intricate lines and tossing in a quote from "The More I See You," Lowe followed, with a darker tone and more streamlined ideas, exploiting a half-step glissandi to great effect. The deep, tobacco timbre of Thorsen's bass offset his piquant forays into thumb-position and when the band traded 8's with Plank, the room got "pin-drop-quiet".
Lowe outlined "A Nightingale Sang In Berkely Square," with soft voice-leading and a remarkable sense of harmonic flow, then Eschete took over, with a constant stream of eighth notes --only to be upstaged by Lowe's warm curlicues and stripped-down articulation.
Plank kept a low-flame aglow to propel "Gone With The Wind," into an effusive swing projection and both guitarists twisted healthy injections of the blues into their respective commentary. Plank took an amazing solo with the brushes--you could sing the melody in every stroke of his feature.
The sound at the new Dizzy's is sublime--it highlighted the tonal subtlety in Lowe's improvising, and each instrument with remarkable detail.
Photo by Michael Oletta
More like this:
- Mundell Lowe, Jaime Valle, Jim Ferguson and Ramon Banda — Dec. 31, 2012
- Mimi Fox & Rob Thorsen at Jazz Live — June 13, 2012
- Mundell Lowe Organ Quartet at Jazz Live — May 21, 2012
- Mundell Lowe Quartet at Jazz Live, May 15 — May 8, 2012
- Mundell Lowe marks milestone with concert at Tango Del Rey — April 23, 2012