Deram 1970 / Esoteric 2013
Infusing experience with innocence, the premier horn master of British rock blows a trumpet of his own.
While sax had crossed over from jazz to blues and further on, other brass instruments didn’t make such a move yet, and it takes a future historian to study the use of trumpet in rock – or violin for that matter. Taking both into account, though, will bring Henry Lowther into focus: the Leicester-born polymath studied at the Royal Academy of Music but found fame, if not fortune, playing with the most prominent figures on the non-classical British scene – from Manfred Mann to BUZZCOCKS – and hitting the Woodstock stage with KEEF HARTLEY BAND. As active today as ever, with only John Altman rivaling him in the longevity stakes of reeds, Lowther, quite surprisingly, has only two albums released under his name over five decades, this being the first.
A bold foray into the still-tentative fusion field, it’s a work of hazy English beauty, despite all the inescapable signposts of Miles’ influence running from the “In A Silent Way” serenity of “3/4 Skip (Trip-Up)”, which speeds up its tempo and sway in the middle, to the “Sketches Of Spain” lick of “Introduction”, where five trumpets weave in and out of harmony. Rippled there with Mike Travis’ drums and Daryl Runswick’s bass, the melody is passed on to Tony Robert’s tenor and Mike McNaught’s piano for improvisation to get back in the short “Between”, recast for four baroque violins which take it apart and piece anew. Plaintive strings lead “Trav’lling Song” down the road that Jerry Goodman would take with MAHAVISHNU and David Cross with CRIMSON later on, thus prefacing the soundboard creep onto the jazz rock playground, and add modal moodiness to “Plaything” that dissolves into a skittering percussion carnival yet, on return, its dirge grows in sonic scope and gains optimistic inflections.
These bloom in the 12-minute “Puppet Song” embracing in the most joyful, if pensive, manner most of the already familiar tunes and, led by flugelhorn, binding together every thread shown earlier. It’s there that the initial gauzy innocence turns into a glorious bop, a slightly weary adult blare which suggests the end of the day to be reborn soon: then it’ll be the time for the “Song” again and again.