This video footage of jazz trumpeter Lester Bowie being interviewed and performing live, was broadcast in 1984 as part of an Dave Douglas tribute concert. Other members of his band included at this time Artur Blythe alto sax, Chico Freeman tenor sax, Kirt Lightsey piano, Cecil McBee bass, and Don Moye drums.
Lester Bowie (October 11 1941ľNovember 8 1999) was an American jazz trumpet player and composer. He was a member of the AACM, and cofounded the Art Ensemble of Chicago.
Born in the historic village of Bartonsville in Frederick, Maryland, Bowie grew up in St Louis, Missouri. At the age of five he started studying the trumpet with his father, a professional musician. He played with blues musicians such as Little Milton and Albert King, and rhythm and blues stars such as Solomon Burke, Joe Tex, and Rufus Thomas. In 1965 he became Fontella Bass's musical director and husband. He was a cofounder of BAG (Black Artists' Group) in St Louis.
In 1966 he moved to Chicago, where he worked as a studio musician, and met Muhal Richard Abrams and Roscoe Mitchell and became a member of the AACM. In 1968 he founded the Art Ensemble of Chicago with Mitchell, Joseph Jarman, and Malachi Favors. He remained a member of this group for the rest of his life, and was also a member of Jack DeJohnette's New Directions quartet. He lived and worked in Jamaica and Africa, and played and recorded with Fela Kuti. Bowie's onstage appearance, in a white lab coat, with his goatee waxed into two points, was an important part of the Art Ensemble's stage show.
In 1984 he formed Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy, a brass nonet in which Bowie demonstrated jazz's links to other forms of popular music, a decidedly more populist approach than that of the Art Ensemble. With this group he recorded songs made popular by Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Marilyn Manson, and the Spice Girls -- along with more "serious" material. His New York Organ Ensemble featured James Carter and Amina Claudine Myers.
Although seen as part of the avant-garde, Bowie embraced techniques from the whole history of jazz trumpet, filling his music with humorous smears, blats, growls, half-valve effects, and so on. His affinity to reggae and ska is exemplified by his composition "Ska Reggae Hi-Bop", which he performed with the Skatalites on their 1994 "Hi-Bop Ska" (and again with James Carter on "Conversin' With The Elders")
Also 1994, Bowie appeared on the Red Hot Organization's compilation album, Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool. The album, meant to raise awareness and funds in support of the AIDS epidemic in relation to the African American community, was heralded as "Album of the Year" by Time Magazine.
Bowie took an adventurous and humorous approach to music, and criticized Wynton Marsalis for his conservative approach to jazz tradition.
Bowie died of liver cancer in 1999. The following year he was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame. In 2001 the Art Ensemble of Chicago recorded Tribute to Lester.