Mundell Lowe: Five Classic Albums


An outstanding musician, Mundell Lowe was intent on a career in music from very early childhood. By the late 1950s and early 1960s, the time when these albums were recorded, he had already played and often recorded with just about every big name in jazz, among them Miles Davis, Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughan, Ben Webster and Lester Young. These years saw him in demand as session musician, leader of small and big bands, arranger and composer. The five albums gathered here come from this period and display Lowe in all these guises.

His guitar playing is central to the Guitar Moods session, all 12 tracks being virtually guitar solos with occasional discreet support from bass and drums interspersed with a few very brief moments from a woodwind player. On all of these tracks Lowe’s instrumental skill is vividly yet subtly displayed, while his arranging skill pervades on the next three albums.

Most of the music on TV Action Jazz! is rarely heard in a jazz context. Exceptions are Henry Mancini’s Peter Gunn and Fall Out, which come from Peter Gunn, and the themes from M-Squad and The Thin Man, by Count Basie and Pete Rugolo respectively. There are solos here from most of the members of the group.

On Porgy & Bess there are again solos from almost all, notably Lowe, Elliott, Duvivier and Webster. The quintet on A Grand Night For Swinging is very good and it is especially commendable for the rare opportunity to hear Quill.

The final album features music Lowe composed for the soundtrack of the 1962 film, Satan In High Heels. Out of context, the music sparkles and offers tight section playing and effective solos by a studio orchestra liberally peppered with jazz names.

Altogether, this double album is a fine testimonial to a musician whose long and productive career lasted until just a few months before his death in 2017 at the age of 95.

CD1: [Guitar Moods] (1) Speak Low; We’ll Be Together Again; Memories Of You; Ill Wind; You Don’t Know What Love Is; I Dream Too Much; June An January; I’ll Take Romance; It’s So Peaceful In The Country; Our Waltz; I’m Old Fashioned; Goodbye; [TV Action Jazz] (2) Peter Gunn; Riff Blues; Perry Mason Theme; 77 Sunset Strip; M-Squad; The Thin Man; This Is The Naked City; Fall Out; [Porgy & Bess] (3) Summertime; Bess, You Is My Woman; I Loves You, Porgy; I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’; Where’s My Bess; Redheaded Woman (80.59)
CD2: My Man’s Gone Now; It Takes A Long Pull To Get There; It Ain’t Necessarily So; There’s A Boat Dat’s Leavin’ Soon For New York; [A Grand Night For Swinging] (4) It’s A Grand Night For Swinging; Blues Before Freud; Easy To Love; It Could Happen To You; Love Me Or Leave Me; You Turned The Tables On Me; Crazy Rhythm; [Satan In High Heels] (5) Satan In High Heels; Montage; The Lost And The Lonely; East Side Drive; Coffee, Coffee; Lake In The Woods; From Mundy On; The Long Knife (81.29)
(1) Lowe (g); Trigger Alpert (b); Ed Shaughnessy (d); Al Klink/Phil Bodner (woodwind). Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 20 February, 2 & 9 March 1956.
(2) Lowe (g); Donald Byrd (t); Jimmy Cleveland (tb); Tony Scott (cl, bar); Herbie Mann (fl, ts); Eddie Costa (p, vib, mar); Don Payne (b); Shaughnessy (d). NYC, 3-5 February 1959.
(3) Lowe (g); Art Farmer (t); Ben Webster (ts); Scott (bar); Don Elliott (mell, vib); George Duvivier (b); Osie Johnson/Shaughnessy (d). prob. NYC, 16 July, 3 October 1958.
(4) Lowe (g); Gene Quill (as); Billy Taylor (p); Les Grinage (b); Ed Thigpen (d). NYC, 7 March, 10 April 1957.
(5) Lowe (g); Bernie Glow, Clark Terry, Doc Severinson, Ernie Royal, Joe Newman (t); Buster Cooper, Jimmy Cleveland, Urbie Green (tb); James Buffington (frh); Ray Beckenstein (as), Walter Levinsky (f, as); Al Cohn, Al Klink, Oliver Nelson (ts); Gene Allen, Sol Schlinger (bar); Costa (p, vib); Barry Galbraith (g); Duvivier (b); Shaughnessy (d). NYC, 30 November, 22 December 1961.
Avid Jazz AMSC 1333