Henry Lowther’s Quarternity: Never Never Land

Unreleased mid-70s music from the British trumpeter conveys a sense of open creation, informed by jazz past but committed to progress

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The retrieval of music hidden from history is still an ongoing process thanks to the likes of the Jazz In Britain label, and in this case the find is a gem, not least because it features a band which has fallen through the cracks in the decades between the present and when the music was being made back in the 1970s.

This previously unreleased music reminds me of the efforts of a quintet that the German trumpeter Manfred Schoof was leading in the same era, and which cut three albums for the JAPO label, not because of any musical overlap, but because the bands share a similar sense of creating music that’s wide open, both informed by jazz evolution up to that point and pointedly committed to furthering it.

On a less rarefied level, there’s nowhere near enough of Lowther’s work under his own name on record, and the same goes for guitarist Phil Lee, and while it’s the individual’s prerogative to fly beneath the radar, so to speak, this set is a great opportunity to experience two often overlooked talents.

The brass and violin / guitar / bass / drums quartet is augmented in many cases by either Alan Wakeman (on six tracks) or Art Themen (on three), both of which bring a further flavour to the feast, as in (with Wakeman) Your Eyes Are Love and (with Themen) the version of Third World Song on the second disc.

The music was made on four occasions spanning a four-year period, which in itself is revealing of the fact that a group line-up could be consistent in a way that perhaps isn’t so much the case now, hence maybe why the music maintains unusual coherence and spontaneity.

If I were still in the habit of contributing to end-of-year polls this set would be one of my nominations.

Discography
CD1: Start Right; Never Never Land; Chinese Wand; Third World Song; Jack And John; Your Eyes Are Love; The Story So Far; A Night In Amnesia (52.58)
CD2: No Surprises; Your Dancing Toes; Zemlja; Richie Street N1; Third World Song (39.07)

Lowther (t, flh, vn); Alan Wakeman (ts, ss); Art Themen (ts, ss); Phil Lee (g); Dave Green (b); Trevor Tomkins (d). London, June 1974, April 1976, November 1976 and July 1978.
Jazz In Britain JIB-36-S-CD