What's Hot With Jazz Guitar: Mundell Lowe

by Doc Dosco

This week we feature jazz guitarist Mundell Lowe. Mundell Lowe has been on the jazz scene for over 50 years now and is one one of the most respected elder statesmen of jazz guitar, so we felt it appropriate to feature him this week.

Online Bio:

Born in Laurel, Mississippi, Mundell left home at the age of thirteen. After working in Nashville, he found his way to Bourbon Street in New Orleans and the beginning of his jazz career. While serving in World War II, he met the influential John Hammond, who introduced him to Ray McKinley. Mundell worked with McKinley's band for a year and a half, developing his distinctive instrumental style, and then moved on to work in New York at Café Society and stints at the Village Vanguard and The Embers, among others. Mundell worked with Billie Holiday, Lester Young,Charlie Parker, Helen Humes and Charles Mingus, to name but a few. These gigs overlapped with an early morning TV show at NBC with Cy Coleman, "A Date in Manhattan," and later "The Kate Smith Hour" with Stan Gee, Doc Severinsen, and Kai Winding.

From the early fifties to the mid-Sixties, he was an active performer, working with George Duvivier on bass and Ed Shaughnessy on drums in Dave Garroway's "Today Show" studio band. He also played with the extraordinary pianist Hank Jones when they both worked in the NBC and CBS orchestras of the early Fifties. After seventeen years at NBC as a guitarist and arranger, Lowe was transferred to the News and Special Events Department to work as a composer.

Mundell moved to Los Angeles, California, Christmas 1965-actually, he left to visit some friends, and never went back to New York! He met Jackie Cooper, then-head of Screen Gems, and began the West Coast phase of his career composing music for some of their television and film properties. Lowe augmented his TV and film work with making his own LPs as well as two successful projects with noted singers Sarah Vaughan ('After Hours") and Carmen McRae ('Bittersweet").

Even though he had made special appearances with Peggy Lee and the White House, toured Japan with Benny Carter several times, and was a regular performer at the Monterey Jazz Festival, Mundell found he was spending more time writing than playing, which he found frustrating. He made up his mind to turn that around and, during the 1980s, he stepped out of the studio world of film and television and returned to performing, the first love of his long and rich musical career.

Mundell's curent schedule is no less active. In the last few years he has traveled the globe as a concert performer, worked the States with his own quintet, and has made several trips to New York to work with Ron Carter, Al Foster, Bill Mays, and Ray Drummond. He tours with the André Previn Trio (composed of Previn, Ray Brown, and Lowe), as well as the Great Guitars with Charlie Byrd, Herb Ellis, and Tal Farlow. Mundell also has been busy in recording studios lately, having recorded two albums for Telarc with the André Previn Trio, one for Phillips with Kiri Te Kanawa, and two albums for Fresh Sounds with Teté Montoliu.

Mudell Loew's Homepage

Doc Dosco is a jazz guitarist, composer and audio consultant living in Los Angeles, CA. His website is located at http://www.docdosco.com, where you can find more information on the 'What's Hot with Jazz Guitar' columns, audio clips of Doc's playing, and many additional features. Doc now endorses Peerless Guitars and has the website Jazz Guitar Zone to help promote Peerless jazz guitars in the US. He also endorses the new Pignose Valve Tube Amps -- great for jazz (and anything else!)

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Did Mundell ever record with Art Pepper? The tune I`m thinking of is "My Heart Stood Still"

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