John Wheatcroft cel­e­brates the ge­nius of the al­most un­be­liev­ably gifted, Earl Klugh.

John Wheatcroft pays heart­felt mu­si­cal homage to a jazz gui­tar leg­end, the in­com­pa­ra­ble Mun­dell Lowe who passed away just last month.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

As has hap­pened all too of­ten re­cently, we find our­selves mourn­ing an­other gui­tar leg­end. How­ever, Mun­dell Lowe had at least led a long and fruit­ful ca­reer, both as a solo artist and along­side some of mu­sic’s most iconic artists. He was also gig­ging right up un­til his death at the ripe old age of 95.

Born in Lau­rel, Mis­sis­sippi in 1922, Lowe’s in­tro­duc­tion to play­ing gui­tar was via coun­try mu­sic. But, in­spired by the revo­lu­tion­ary gui­tar sounds of Char­lie Chris­tian and the vir­tu­oso play­ing of pi­anist Art Ta­tum, the young Mun­dell de­cided to take a change of di­rec­tion to­wards jazz.

And what a for­tu­itous de­ci­sion this proved to be. Mun­dell’s ca­reer was phe­nom­e­nally suc­cess­ful. His re­sume is essen­tially a Who’s Who of jazz, in­clud­ing artists such as Char­lie Parker, Bil­lie Hol­i­day, Dizzy Gille­spie, Bill Evans, Benny Good­man, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzger­ald. From the world of pop­u­lar mu­sic he has per­formed, recorded and ar­ranged for house­hold names such as Barry Manilow, Harry Be­la­fonte, Bobby Darin, Peggy Lee and count­less oth­ers. In the 1960s Lowe worked as gui­tarist, ar­ranger and com­poser for tele­vi­sion and film for both the NBC and CBS or­ches­tras; plus he had a suc­cess­ful ca­reer as an ed­u­ca­tor, teach­ing at both the Gui­tar In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy (GIT) and the Grove School of Mu­sic, Cal­i­for­nia.

Lowe’s play­ing was grace­ful, beau­ti­fully com­posed and supremely so­phis­ti­cated; his chord work har­mon­i­cally ad­ven­tur­ous, and his sin­gle-note lines swung like crazy. His ideas came across as fully formed, log­i­cally de­vel­oped and in­stantly mem­o­rable. He also re­put­edly knew thou­sands of songs, in­clud­ing all the lyrics and vo­cal nu­ances. This in­formed his melodic and ac­com­pa­ni­ment choices; he knew ex­actly when to fill in and when to hold back. No won­der so many singers loved to work with him - and why per­haps we should strive to em­u­late th­ese as­pects too.

Lowe re­leased his lat­est al­bum, Poor But­ter­fly, just last year and he was per­form­ing reg­u­larly un­til shortly be­fore he died.

There are nine mu­si­cal phrases that fol­low, each il­lus­trat­ing a par­tic­u­lar con­cept, ap­proach or tech­nique that Mun­dell might em­ploy when ei­ther im­pro­vis­ing, set­ting up the mood or wind­ing a song down with an ap­pro­pri­ate end­ing. You’ll no­tice that Lowe tunes to drop D ex­clu­sively, so while some of th­ese ex­am­ples don’t ac­tu­ally use the low D string, I made the de­ci­sion to stick to this tun­ing through­out for the sake of au­then­tic­ity, and also to hope­fully con­jure up some of the spirit of ad­ven­ture and exploration that worked so ef­fec­tively for Mun­dell through­out his star-stud­ded and de­servedly glit­ter­ing ca­reer. RIP Mun­dell Lowe.

With my kind of jazz, it’s ear mu­sic. if you can’t hear it, don’t play it, be­cause if you can’t hear it then the lis­tener can’t hear it M. Lowe

Mun­dell Lowe who passed away aged 95

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