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Cultural Percussionist

Lester Bowie Day

Lester Bowie (October 11, 1941 – November 8, 1999) was an American jazz trumpet player and composer. He was a member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and co-founded the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Born in the historic village of Bartonsville in Frederick County, 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 BurkeJoe Tex, and Rufus Thomas. In 1965, he became Fontella Bass‘s musical director and husband. He was a co-founder of Black Artists Group (BAG) 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 previously associated with  Whitney HoustonMichael Jackson, and Marilyn Manson, along with other material. His New York Organ Ensemble featured James Carter and Amina Claudine Myers. In the mid 1980s he was also part of the jazz supergroup The Leaders. Featuring tenor saxophonist Chico Freeman, alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe, drummer Famoudou Don Moye, pianist Kirk Lightsey, and bassist Cecil McBee. At this time, he was also playing the opening theme music for The Cosby Show.

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