Mundell Lowe, Part 4 - JazzWax

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January 17, 2008


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I really enjoyed your interview with Mundell Lowe; a lot of interesing informationf rom this i=often over-lloked artist. yet I can't help being dismayed by Mr. Lowe's comment:

"Rock was just something that producers dreamed up to make money. It had nothing to do with art. I’m glad I made the move out to California and avoided the whole rock scene. Rather than sell out, I was able to do what I wanted to do—and sleep at night."

So many jazz musicians then, and even now, fail to see rock as a legitimate and vital musical development, an inevitable outgrowth of such musical currents as blues, rythym and blues, and folk. I can't help but think that teh fact that so many jazz musicians "didn't get it" was a contributing factor to the eclipse of jazz during the 60s and 70s. Newer generations and contemporary jazz musicians now understand that rock and jazz can not only get along but also feed off each other, not just in "fusion" jazz but in mulit-disciplinary approaches to composition and performance. BTW, I hardly see how scoring for television shows is not, itself, a form of "selling out"!

Ted O'Reilly

I'm glad to see that you hate typos. Me too. But I also hate flipped photographs, and the lead picture of Lowe finds him playing left-handed. Ugh...

Ivan Santiago

Yay -- I had missed this fine Mundell Lowe interview. I'm a big fan of his playing. Loved the parts about Carmen McRae and Billie Holiday.

Would have loved it if he had talked a bit more about the post-1965 years, and about his experience (whether good or bad) accompanying Peggy Lee. While it is true that he played for a large number of singers, his 1968-1969 work with Peggy went somewhat farther than the norm: he wrote songs with her, and he shows up frequently in her televised (N.E.T.) documentary. (The latter is the original source of the live, concert performance of "Is That All There Is" that is on her DVD "Fever"). He is also listed as arranger & conductor of some of Peggy's pop-oriented but moody, melancholic tracks, recorded during that same period. (The credit for those arrangements is a bit confusing, though. It looks like both Randy Newman and Mundell Lowe did arrangements for those songs. Some sources credit Mundell, some Randy. Stylistically, it does sound like Randy. One of the numbers in question can be seen on YouTube, if you type "Peggy Lee: Me And My Shadow." in the search engine. There's guitar involved -- and it is likely to be Mundell -- but the piano is the prominent instrument ...)

Anyway, belated but great find for me, this interview.


Funny how Mundell moved to California at the end of 1965 to escape rock - just as things were starting to heat up in Haight-Ashbury and the Sunset Strip. I agree with his comments on rock, though, and also with Tony's above. It's not a matter of either/or, but rather both/and. Some of the "avant-garde" jazz of the period is just as hard to listen to as the worst rock.

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of 55 More Songs," "Anatomy of a Song," "Rock Concert: An Oral History" and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax has won three Jazz Journalists Association awards.
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