Fresh

Frank Lowe, 1975

Jazz in the 70s is most often remembered as fusion, the Herbie Hancocks, Weather Reports. Dig a little deeper and you find the AACM: Art Ensemble of Chicago, Anthony Braxton, et al. Even further down from there is a clutch of artists that kept the free jazz torch of Coleman, Ayler and Coltrane burning in New York, but could never get their heads above the horizon. It's nearly a lost era of jazz, with scant few names mentioned in the official history and much of their catalogs out-of-print and hard to find.

To group Frank Lowe among the nearly forgotten is no judgement on him—he was just unlucky. Fresh is about as good of an entry point as you could hope for. With its riotous, two-drummer back line and mid-range filled out by cello and trombone, gives the music a slippery, flexible feel. The venerable Lester Bowie (of the Art Ensemble) sits in on trumpet. Each track is approached with abandon that never loses sight of the center.

Their take on Thelonious Monk's classic, Epistrophy is exceptional. Frank Lowe and co. see themselves as the next step in history that threads back to Monk, bebop and beyond. They afford the standard some respect but not so much they can't reshape in their own image. Few players today manage as much.