Mundell Lowe Quartet – live at Le Bilboquet, Paris – May 4, 1988 – Radio France Musique “Jazz Club” – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Mundell Lowe this weekend. With a quartet featuring Olivier Hutman on piano, Luigi Trusardi on bass and Philippe Combelle on drums. It was recorded at Le Bilboquet in Paris on May 4, 1988 and preserved for posterity by the ever-present-ever-capable France Musique for their Jazz Club series.
The son of a Baptist minister, Mundell Lowe grew up on a farm in Shady Grove, Mississippi, near Laurel. He started playing guitar when he was eight years old, with his father and sister acting as his first teachers. When he was thirteen, he began running away from home to play in bands. Occasionally his father would find him, bring him home, and warn him about the dangers of whiskey. At sixteen, Lowe worked in Nashville on the Grand Ole Opry radio program. He was a member of the Jan Savitt orchestra before serving in the military during World War II.
At basic training, he became friends with John Hammond, who organized weekend jam sessions. He performed in an Army dance band while in Guadalcanal. After his discharge, he called Hammond, looking for work, and Hammond sent him to Ray McKinley. He spent two years with McKinley’s big band in New York City. He joined the Benny Goodman orchestra, then worked intermittently for the next few years at Café Society and other clubs in New York.
In 1950, he was hired by NBC as a staff musician. He and Ed Shaughnessy were members of the Today Show band for over ten years. Lowe acted in an episode of the Armstrong Circle Theatre television show that included Walter Matthau and live music by Doc Severinsen.
On the weekends he played jazz, sometimes getting permission from NBC to leave for six-month periods. In the jazz world he played with Jimmy Dorsey and Tommy Dorsey, Bill Evans, Billie Holiday, Red Norvo, Charles Mingus, Charlie Parker, Sauter-Finegan Orchestra, and Lester Young. He composed and arranged for NBC. He was responsible for introducing pianist Bill Evans to record producer Orrin Keepnews, resulting in Evans’s first recordings as a leader.
In 1965 he moved to Los Angeles and worked for NBC as a staff guitarist, composer, and arranger. He wrote music for the TV shows Hawaii Five-O, Starsky & Hutch, and The Wild Wild West, and the movies Billy Jack and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, But Were Afraid to Ask. He recorded with Carmen McRae and Sarah Vaughan. During the 1980s, he worked with André Previn, Tete Montoliu, and the Great Guitars. He was a teacher at the Guitar Institute of Technology and the Grove School of Music. For several years, he was music director of the Monterey Jazz Festival.
During his career, he worked with Benny Carter, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Johnny Hodges, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Lee Konitz, Peggy Lee, Fats Navarro, Shirley Scott, Dinah Washington, and Ben Webster. In the later decades of his life he collaborated often with flautist Holly Hoffman. At the age of 93, he released the album Poor Butterfly.
Sit back, relax and hit the play button – You made it through the week and you’re still standing – you deserve it.