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Lester Bowie was born on this date in 1941. He was a Black trumpeter, flugelhornist, and percussionist.
A native of Frederick, MD, Bowie was raised in Little Rock, AR, and St. Louis and began playing at age 5. He was leading a teen combo in St. Louis at 16. He then went into military service, returning to work with R&B groups and in support of his wife, Fontella Bass.
Bowie worked in the backup bands for R&B sessions for the Chess label and was instrumental in the formation of the Black Artists Group in St. Louis before moving to Chicago in 1966.
In Chicago, Bowie became involved with the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) and worked with Roscoe Mitchell, a group that, with the addition of Joseph Jarman and Malachi Favors, became the Art Ensemble of Chicago. This groundbreaking group continues to this day. During this time, he married vocalist Bass. While in Paris with the Art Ensemble in 1969-'70, Bowie recorded with an assortment of avant-garde players and made German recordings in the same period. In addition to his continuing role with the Art Ensemble, Bowie worked with Jack DeJohnette's New Directions and followed a varied career through the 1980s and '1990s.
His bent notes, slurs, growls, half-valve effects, and showy, comedic flair added a fun, light, bluesy quality to the Art Ensemble performances and recordings. His best recordings outside the Art Ensemble include "The Fifth Power" (Black Saint) and "My Way" (DIW). The pure joy of making music is found in abundance in the sounds created by Lester Bowie. He died on November 9, 1999.
by Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated, New York