Originally published in Earshot Jazz October 2012
Mundell Lowe is one of the most seasoned artists performing at this year’s festival, and his jazz roots reach the deepest. Born in 1922, Lowe worked as a young musician on Basin Street in New Orleans. Upon moving to New York he performed, recorded, and toured with saxophonists Charlie Parker, Lester Young, and Ben Webster, singers Billy Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Tony Bennett, pianist Mary Lou Williams and bassist Charles Mingus. He picked up a gig on the Today Show band with bassist George Duvivier and drummer Ed Shaughnessy and worked with pianist Hank Jones in the NBC and CBS orchestras. Eventually he composed for News and Special Events at NBC.
After a move to California in 1965, Lowe wrote music for movies and television. He developed projects with singers Sarah Vaughn and Carmen McRae. Recently he toured with pianist Andre Previn and collaborated with several notable guitarists – Charlie Byrd, Herb Ellis and Tal Farlow. The Monterey Jazz Festival hired him as music director in 1983. Like his first influences—Charlie Christian and Jimmy Raney—his sound blends with the sound of a tenor saxophone.
For the festival Lowe is joined by Boston guitarist Mike Magnelli – a 1970 graduate of the Boston Conservatory of Music. Magnelli studied with Joe Pass and eventually became his agent and manager. Magnelli also recorded on Burt Bacharach’s “Promises, Promises” and was assistant conductor for the Broadway musical Grease starring John Travolta.
Accompanying this highly credentialed duo are two accomplished Seattle guitarists. Milo Petersen—guitarist on recordings with drummers Billy Hart, Victor Lewis, and Elvin Jones—picks up the sticks for these performances. On drums, Petersen has recorded five CDs and accompanied Eartha Kitt, Mose Allison and traveling Broadway shows at Seattle’s Jazz Alley. Chuck Kistler began by playing guitar as an avid Frank Zappa disciple and switched to bass in 1998. He performed with Kurt Elling, Kevin Mahogany and Peter Bernstein. His strong sense of pitch and facile left hand produce solo lines as light and lithe as a bebop saxophonist.
This combo is sure to produce a guitar feast for every ear.