The Great Pretender album cover
The Great Pretender

Lester Bowie

ECM Records

Trumpeter Lester Bowie’s first album for ECM, released in 1981, features Hamiet Bluiett on baritone sax, Donald Smith on piano and organ, Fred Williams on bass, Phillip Wilson on drums, and two singers: David Peaston and Bowie’s wife, Fontella Bass. It begins with a nearly 17-minute version of the title track that journeys through doo-wop, R&B, gospel, and multiple varieties of jazz, with Bluiett taking an astonishing solo — you’ll hear notes you never thought the baritone sax could produce. The rest of the album includes a New Orleans-style treatment of the theme from the 1950s kids’ TV show Howdy Doody; a sharp-edged urban funk version of the 1930s pop song “When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain”; and three Bowie originals which blend Latin funk, AACM-style atmospherics, and his pyrotechnic trumpet playing to stunning effect.

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