Guitar Moods by MUNDELL LOWE
Mundell Lowe (g) with Al Klink (fl, oboe and bass clarinet) (on Side 1, #1 and 4; Side 2 #3) Phil Bodner (oboe and English horn) (on Side 1, #3 and 6; side 2, #1 and 6) Trigger Alpert (b) Ed Shaughnessy (drs) (Our Waltz is by unaccompanied guitar)
Hackensack, New Jersey; February 20, March 2 and 9, 1956
1. Speak Low (2'35") (fl,o gbd) A (Nash-Weill)
2. We'll Be Together Again (2'02") (gbd) C (Laine-Fischer)
3. Memories of You (3'45") (gbdh) B (Razaf-Blake)
4. Ill Wind (2'57") (fl gbd) A (Koehler-Arlen)
5. You Don't Know What Love Is (3'02") (gbd) C (Ray-DePaul)
6. I Dream Too Much (2'14") (o, g) B' (Fields-Kern)
1. June In January (2'50") (eh gbd) B (Robin-Ranger)
2. I'll Take Romance (1'49") (gb) C' (Hammerstein-Oakland)
3. It's So Peaceful In The Country (4'09") (fl gbd) A (Alec Wilder)
4. Our Waltz (1'51") (g) C' (David Rose)
5. I'm Old Fashioned (2'05") (gbd) C (Mercer-Kern)
6. Goodbye (3'06") (o g) B' (Gordon Jenkins)
In these days of apparently countless quantities of jazz albums, variety would seem to be the watchword. The end-product of more than a few recording sessions appears merely to be a rather casual cross-section of the work of a particular group or artist; as if to say 'here is a sampling of just about all the types and tempos we have to offer." Not that this is necessarily a poor way to go about things: much good music (as well as some bad and a great deal of indifferent) has been produced by this kind of approach. Nevertheless, it does serve to point up just how rare it now is for a jazz musician to be so darling as to attempt an LP entirely devoted to a single specific theme, or to building and maintaining a single mood - that, in short, has unity.
It is precisely this sort of rarity that MUNDELL LOWE has created here. The strongly enthusiastic critical reactions to his work customarily lay stress on the warm, flowing lines of his guitar. This eventually and inevitably has encouraged Mundell to proceed with a project that has long been close to his heart: an album exclusively concerned with the sort of tune that listeners used to call (and musicians still call) "ballads" - songs that demand a slow tempo and delicate, sensitive handling, and that are capable of rewarding the proper treatment by conjuring up a soft and warm glow.
This is music with a deep romantic tinge, but it is never in any danger of slipping over the line into banality or saccharine sweetness. For it remains thoroughly in the jazz idiom. Backed by firm, sure rhythm, and making rich use in his arrangements of the unusual colorings offered by such non-standard instruments as bass clarinet, flute and oboe, Lowe emphasizes the beauty and pathos that are among the basic features of jazz.
The repertoire he has selected here is an important part of the picture. From the haunting tenderness of Kurt Weill's Speak Low (and it took a little will power to avoid turning that title into a pun and making it the title of the album!), through the work of such superior artists as Alec Wilder and Harold Arlen to Gordon Jenkins' mournful Goodbye (inevitably the closing number), these are melodies of sufficient depth and structure to lend themselves with great effectiveness to the web of intricate and subtle improvisation that Mundell spins....
This album marks another large step in Lowe's progress towards recognition as an outstanding figure among the top-ranking modern jazz guitarists. He commands - as any artist of real stature must - a distinctive, highly personal style. While quick to admit his admiration for several other major guitarists of today - men like Tal Farlow, Jimmy Raney, Johnny Smith - he is clearly not exactly like any of them. One influence, of course, he does share with just about all current performers of this instrument. For all owe a very substantial debt to Charlie Christian, who must be given credit not only for the prevalence of the electric guitar in jazz today, but also for the entire concept of the precise, single-note style that has superseded the earlier whole-chord technique. It was Christian, almost single-handedly, who completely altered the role of the guitar in modern jazz, freeing it from a limited position as merely a part of the rhythm section and giving to all who followed the additional opportunity and responsibility of functioning as a melodic solo voice.
Mundell Lowe, who surely demonstrates that he is brilliantly able to make the most of this sort of opportunity, was not yet out of his 'teens in 1942, the year of Christian's untimely death. But Mundy was already fully committed to music as a career, and had been for almost eight years. Mississippi-born (in April, 1922), he had first learned music from his father, a minister who "played guitar and fiddle." Lowe got his professional start, at the age of twelve, by going on the road with a hillbilly band. There was, of course, no place for jazz on the job with such groups, but Mundy recalls that there was usually an awareness of jazz among those musicians, and more than a few after-hours sessions.
His travels led as far as Hollywood, where in addition to music there were some minor movie roles. Then it was back on the road, this time with pop dance bands. He settled down for a time in New Orleans--his first extended encounter with jazz--and then played briefly with Jan Savitt's orchestra, in 1941, just before going into the Army. While serving as a rifleman in the Pacific, Lowe met John Hammond, who was to play a key role in shaping his post-war career. This is a familiar role for Hammond, the noted jazz enthusiast, critic and recording executive, who had figured importantly in Benny Goodman's early success, had 'discovered' the Count Basie band, and had arranged for Charlie Christian's entry into the Goodman orchestra. His assistance to Mudell took the form of recommending him for the band Ray McKinley was forming just at the time of Lowe's discharge from the Army, at the end of 1945.
A full year and a half with McKinley provided Mundy with a solid core of experience. It also represented the last full-time job for the understandably road-weary young guitarist. Lowe has since remained in the New York area, frequently in demand for recordings with a wide variety of groups and on occasion playing in local clubs, but sticking largely (as many top jazzmen have done in recent years) to the steady employment offered by radio and TV studio work. He has appeared on a great many major network shows, often in the company of Trigger Alpert and Ed Shaughnessy, the bass player and drummer who support him so ably here.
Lowe’s other Riverside 12-inch LPs include –
A Grand Night for Swinging: Mundell Lowe; with Billy Taylor, Gene Quill (RLP 12-238)
Mundell Lowe Quartet (RLP 12-204)
New Music of Alec Wilder: composed for Mundell Lowe and his Orchestra (RLP 12-219)
Lowe can also be heard on –
Counterpoint for Six Valves: Don Elliott and Rusty Dedrick play Dick Hyman arrangements (RLP 12-218)
Other outstanding contemporary jazz on High Fidelity Riverside LPs includes –
Sultry Serenade: Herbie Mann (RLP 12-234)
Trigger Happy: Trigger Alpert all stars; with Tony Scott, Zoot Sims, Urbie Green, Al Cohn, Joe Wilder,
Ed Shaughnessy (RLP 12-225)
BOB CORIWN Quartet featuring the trumpet of Don Elliott (RLP 12-220)
SONNY ROLLINS: The Sound of Sonny (RLP 12-241)
KENNY DORHAM: Jazz Contrasts (RLP 12-239)
Brilliant Corners: THELONIOUS MONK; with Sonny Rollins (RLP 12-226)
Zoot!: The ZOOT SIMS Quintet (RLP 12-228)
RANDY WESTON: Trio and Solo; with Art Blakey (RLP 12-227)
BILL EVANS: New Jazz Conceptions (RLP 12-223)
KENNY DREW Trio; with Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones (RLP 12-24)
A High Fidelity Recording (Audio Compensation: RIAA Curve).
Produced by Bill Grauer and Orrin Keepnews.
Notes by Orrin Keepnews.
Cover designed by Fran Scott;
Photograph by Hank Parker.
Engineer: Rudy Van Gelder.
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS
553 West 51st Street New York 19, N.Y.