Lester Bowie

Lester Bowie

Lester Bowie (11 October 1941–8 November 1999) was an American jazz trumpet player and composer. He was a member of the AACM, and cofounded the Art Ensemble of Chicago.

Life and career

Born in Frederick, Maryland, Bowie grew up in St Louis, Missouri. At the age of five he started studying the trumpet with his father, a professional musician. He played with blues musicians such as Little Milton and Albert King, and rhythm and blues stars such as Solomon Burke, Joe Tex, and Rufus Thomas. In 1965 he became Fontella Bass's musical director (and husband). He was a cofounder of BAG (Black Artists' Group) in St Louis.

In 1966 he moved to Chicago, where he worked as a studio musician, and met Muhal Richard Abrams and Roscoe Mitchell and became a member of the AACM. In 1968 he founded the Art Ensemble of Chicago with Mitchell, Joseph Jarman, and Malachi Favors. He remained a member of this group for the rest of his life, and was also a member of Jack DeJohnette's "New Directions" quartet. He lived and worked in Jamaica and Africa, and played and recorded with Fela Kuti. Bowie's onstage appearance, in a white lab coat, with his goatee waxed into two points, was an important part of the Art Ensemble's stage show.

In 1984 he formed "Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy", a brass nonet in which Bowie demonstrated jazz's links to other forms of popular music, a decidedly more populist approach than that of the Art Ensemble. With this group he recorded songs made popular by Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Marilyn Manson, and the Spice Girls -- along with more "serious" material. His "New York Organ Ensemble" featured James Carter and Amina Claudine Myers.

Although seen as part of the avant-garde, Bowie embraced techniques from the whole history of jazz trumpet, filling his music with humorous smears, blats, growls, half-valve effects, and so on. His affinity to Reggae and Ska is exemplified by his composition "Ska Reggae Hi-Bop", which he performed with the Skatalites on their 1994 "Hi-Bop Ska" (and again with James Carter on "Conversin' With The Elders")

Bowie took an adventurous and humorous approach to music, and criticized Wynton Marsalis for his conservative approach to jazz tradition.

Bowie died of liver cancer in 1999. The following year he was inducted into the "Down Beat" Jazz Hall of Fame.


As a Leader:

* "Numbers 1 & 2" (Nessa) 1967
* "Fast Last! "(Muse) 1974
* "Rope-A-Dope" (Muse) 1976
* "African Children" (Horo) 1978
* "Duet" (Improvising Artists) 1978 (with Phillip Wilson)
* "The Fifth Power" (Black Saint) 1978
* "Esoteric" (Hat Hut) 1980
* "The Great Pretender" (ECM) 1981
* "All the Magic" (ECM) 1983
* "Bugle Boy Bop" (Muse) 1983 (with Charles "Bobo" Shaw)
* "Duet" (Paddle Wheel) 1985 (with Nobuyoshi Ino)

Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy

* "I Only Have Eyes for You" (ECM) 1985
* "Avant Pop" (ECM) 1986
* "Twilight Dreams" (Venture) 1987
* "Serious Fun" (DIW) 1989
* "My Way" (DIW) 1990
* "Live At The 6th Tokyo Music Joy" (DIW) 1990 [with Art Ensemble Of Chicago]
* "The Fire This Time" (In & Out) 1992
* "Odyssey of Funk & Popular Music, Vol. 1" (Atlantic) 1999

Lester Bowie's New York Organ Ensemble

* "The Organizer" (DIW) 1991
* "Funky T, Cool T" (DIW) 1992

As a co-Leader:

Art Ensemble of Chicago

* "A Jackson in Your House" (Actuel) 1969
* "Tutankhamun" (Arista Freedom) 1969
* "The Spiritual" (Arista Freedom) 1969
* "People In Sorrow" (Nessa) 1969
* "Message to Our Folks" (Actuel) 1969
* "Reese and the Smooth Ones" (Actuel) 1969
* "Comme A la Radio" (Saravah) 1969 (with Brigitte Fontaine/Areski)
* "Certain Blacks" (Inner City) 1970
* "Chi-Congo" (Decca) 1970
* "Les Stances a Sophie" (Nessa) 1970
* "With Fontella Bass" (America) 1970
* "Fanfare for the Warriors" (Atlantic) 1973
* "Kabalaba" (AECO) 1974
* "Bap-Tizum" (Atlantic) 1972 (reissued by Koch 1999)
* "Live at Mandel Hall" (Delmark) 1972
* "Nice Guys" (ECM) 1978
* "Live in Berlin" (West Wind) 1979
* "Full Force" (ECM) 1980
* "Among the People/Live in Milano" (Praxis) 1980
* "Great Black Music Ancient to the Future" (DIW) 1982
* "The Complete Live in Japan" (DIW) 1984
* "The Third Decade" (DIW) 1984
* "Naked" (DIW) 1986
* "Urban Bushmen" (ECM) 1984
* "Ancient To The Future" (Dreaming Of The Masters Series Vol.1 (DIW) 1987
* "Art Ensemble Of Soweto" (DIW) 1990
* "America-South Africa' (DIW) 1990
* "Thelonious Sphere Monk" (Dreaming Of The Masters Series Vol.2) (DIW) 1990
* "Dreaming Of The Masters Suite" (DIW) 1990
* "Live At The 6th Tokyo Music Joy" (DIW) 1990
* "Salutes to the Chicago Blues Tradition" (AECO Historical Archive Series) 1993
* "Coming Home Jamaica" (Atlantic) 1996

The Leaders

* "Mudfoot" (Black Hawk) 1986
* "Out Here Like This" (Black Hawk) 1986
* "Unforeseen Blessings" (Black Hawk) 1988

As a sideman or guest:

* "Sound" (Delmark) 1966 (Roscoe Mitchell)
* "Congliptious" (Nessa) 1968 (Roscoe Mitchell)
* "Free Jazz No. 1" (Concert Hall) 1969 (1 track with Jimmy Lyons)
* "Sunshine" (BYG) 1969 (Sunny Murray)
* "Yasmina, A Black Woman" (BYG) 1969 (Archie Shepp)
* "Coral Rock" (America) 1970 (Archie Shepp)
* "Gittin' To Know Y'All" (MPS) 1970 (various, Bowie conducting Baden-Baden Free Jazz Orchestra)
* "Other Afternoons" (BYG) 1970 (Jimmy Lyons)
* "Live at the Lower Manhattan Ocean Club" (India Navigation) 1978 (David Murray)
* "The Razor's Edge/Strangling Me With Your Love" (Hannibal, 12") 1982 (Defunkt)
* "The Ritual" (Sound Aspects) 1985 (Kahil El'Zabar)
* "Sacred Love" (Sound Aspects) 1988 (Kahil El'Zabar)
* "Avoid The Funk" (Hannibal) 1988 (Defunkt)
* "Zebra "(MCA) 1989 (Jack DeJohnette)
* "Black Tie White Noise" (Savage) 1993 (David Bowie; 5 songs, including instrumental "Looking for Lester")
* "Cum Funky" (Enemy) 1994 (Defunkt)
* "Not Two" (Biodro Records) 1995 (Miłość and Lester Bowie)
* "Blasé" (Charly) 1996 (Archie Shepp)
* "Talkin' About Life And Death" (Biodro Records) 1999 (Miłość and Lester Bowie)
* "Funky Skull" (Limelight) reissued 2006 (Melvin Jackson)
* "Hiroshima" (Art Yard) 2007 (The Sun Ra All Stars Band)


* Philippe Carles, André Clergeat, and Jean-Louis Comolli, "Dictionnaire du jazz", Paris, 1994
* Ian Carr, Digby Fairweather and Brian Priestley, "Jazz: the Essential Companion", London, 1987
* Richard Cook and Brian Morton, "The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD", 6th Edition, 2002

External links

* [http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/9949/giddins.php Village Voice article]
* [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:emf3zfgheh2k~T1 allmusic]
* [http://www.fontellabass.com/page2.html Fontella Bass bio]

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