Lowe in Saarbrücken, 2000
|Birth name||James Mundell Lowe|
April 21, 1922|
Shady Grove, Mississippi, U.S.
December 2, 2017 (aged 95)|
San Diego, California
|Occupation(s)||Musician, composer, conductor|
|Labels||RCA Victor, Riverside, RCA Camden, Fresh Sound, Nagel-Heyer|
James Mundell Lowe (April 21, 1922 – December 2, 2017) was an American jazz guitarist who worked often in radio, television, and film, and as a session musician.
The son of a Baptist minister, 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.
Awards and honors
In 1998, he was inducted into the Mississippi Music Hall of Fame. In 1999, Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, gave him an honorary Doctorate of Arts. On July 17, 2009, he returned home to Laurel, Mississippi. In recognition of a lifetime of musical achievement he was given a key to the city and honored by Mayor Melvin Mack, who proclaimed July 18, 2009 Mundell Lowe Day.
- 1953: The Mundell Lowe Quintet (RCA Victor)
- 1955: The Mundell Lowe Quartet (Riverside)
- 1956: Guitar Moods (Riverside)
- 1956: New Music of Alec Wilder (Riverside)
- 1957: A Grand Night for Swinging (Riverside)
- 1958: Porgy & Bess (RCA Camden)
- 1959: TV Action Jazz! (RCA Camden)
- 1960: Themes from Mr. Lucky, The Untouchables and Other TV Action Jazz (RCA Camden)
- 1974: California Guitar (Famous Door) with Roger Kellaway and Jimmy Rowles
- 1977: Souvenirs (Jazz Alliance, 1977–92)
- 1978: The Incomparable (Dobre)
- 1989: Sweet 'n' Lovely (Fresh Sound) with Tete Montoliu
- 1996: The Return of the Great Guitars (Concord) with Charlie Byrd and Herb Ellis
- 2000: Mundell's Moods (Nagel-Heyer)
- 2000: This One's for Charlie with Lloyd Wells (Azica)
- 2007: Haunted Heart with Jim Ferguson
- 2015: Poor Butterfly with Lloyd Wells and Jim Ferguson
- 1962: Satan in High Heels
- 1967: A Time for Killing
- 1971: Billy Jack
- 1972: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask)
- 1977: Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo
- The Wild Wild West
- Love on a Rooftop
- Hawaii Five-O
- Starsky and Hutch
- Attack on Terror: The FBI vs. the Ku Klux Klan
- B.A.D. Cats
With Tony Bennett
With Gene Bianco
- Harp, Skip & Jump (RCA Camden, 1958)
With Ruth Brown
With Benny Carter
With Rosemary Clooney
- "On the First Warm Day" (Columbia, 1952)
With Al Cohn
- Son of Drum Suite (RCA Victor, 1960)
With Sammy Davis Jr.
- Mood to Be Wooed (Decca, 1957)
With Blossom Dearie
- Counterpoint for Six Valves (Riverside, 1955–56)
With Jimmy Forrest
- Soul Street (New Jazz, 1962)
With Ella Fitzgerald
- Rhythm Is My Business (Verve, 1962)
With Johnny Hodges
- Blue Rabbit (Verve, 1964) with Wild Bill Davis
- Con-Soul & Sax (RCA Victor, 1965) with Wild Bill Davis
With Billie Holiday
- "Weep No More" / "Girls Were Made to Take Care of Boys" (Decca, 1948)
- "My Man" / "Porgy" (Decca, 1948)
- "Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do" / "Baby Get Lost" (Decca, 1949)
With J. J. Johnson
- Broadway Express (RCA Victor, 1965)
With Quincy Jones
With Richie Kamuca
- Richard Kamuca Quartet 1976 (Jazzz, 1976)
With Barry Manilow
With Herbie Mann
- Herbie Mann Plays The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd (Atlantic, 1965)
- Our Mann Flute (Atlantic, 1966)
With Carmen McRae
- Carmen McRae (Bethlehem, 1954)
- A Foggy Day (Stardust, 1955)
- By Special Request (Decca, 1955)
- Blue Moon (Decca, 1956)
- Birds of a Feather (Decca, 1959)
- Carmen McRae Sings Lover Man and Other Billie Holiday Classics (Harmony, 1961)
- Bittersweet (Focus, 1964)
With Joe Mooney
- The Greatness of Joe Mooney (Columbia, 1963)
With Charlie Parker
- The Legendary Rockland Palace Concert, Volume 1 (Jazz Classics, 1952)
With André Previn
- Uptown (Telarc, 1990)
- Old Friends (Telarc, 1992)
- Kiri Sidetracks: The Jazz Album (Polygram, 1992) with Kiri Te Kanawa
- What Headphones? (Angel, 1993)
- André Previn and Friends Play Show Boat (Deutsche Grammophon, 1995)
- Jazz at the Musikverein (Verve 1997)
With Johnnie Ray
With Lalo Schifrin
- New Fantasy (Verve, 1964)
With Shirley Scott
- For Members Only (Impulse!, 1963)
With Sarah Vaughan
With Ben Webster
- The Soul of Ben Webster (Verve, 1957–58)
- Carlton, Jim (2009). Conversations with Great Jazz and Studio Guitarists. Pacific, Missouri: Bill's Music Shelf. pp. 240–259. ISBN 9780786651238.
- Yanow, Scott (2013). The Great Jazz Guitarists. San Francisco: Backbeat. p. 124. ISBN 978-1-61713-023-6.
- Yanow, Scott. "Mundell Lowe". AllMusic. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
- Varga, George (1 December 2008). "Mundell Lowe: Man of Few Notes, Many Stories". JazzTimes. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
- Myers, Marc (14 January 2008). "Mundel Lowe Interview". Jazzwax.
- Varga, George (2 December 2017). "Mundell Lowe dead at 95. Guitar great played with Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Everly Brothers and more". San Diego Union Tribune.