Vintage Guitar - February 2018 - 82
whistle because the theme was built around
a harmonica solo. Woody was sitting at the
board in the control room with a little C
harmonica and Toots said, 'Let me borrow
that.' And though Toots had all these involved
chromatic harmonicas, damned if he didn't
do the thing on that little Marine Band C
harp. By bending the notes, he got through
it brilliantly. It was amazing - everybody
applauded, including Woody, who thought it
was wonderful. Woody also liked my idea to
have Dick Hyman play Bach on the organ in
one of the scenes. It was a sequence in which
the organ just made it that much funnier."
When asked about what it was like to work
with Charlie Parker, Lowe asked, "Have you
ever been on stage with God?
"That's what it was like. I understand talent
and I understand 'best you can hear,' but
there's nothing like an original. When you're
working with someone extraordinary, a special thing that happens that's indescribable.
"I remember that first gig with Bird. It
was the first night we started recording Bird
is Free. We were playing 'Yardbird Suite'
when he walked up to the microphone and
took a couple of choruses that were thrilling.
Then, he stepped back and motioned for me
to come up and play. I played a chorus and
started back, but he kept saying, 'No, let me
hear you.' Another chorus, and 'No, no,
no...' So I played four or five choruses. He
had a gold tip on one of this teeth, so when
he smiled, I could see it gleaming and knew
I'd made a friend.
"I knew him for a long time. He used to
hang out when I was living downtown in the
Cafe Society building. I was rooming with
(clarinetist) Tony Scott, who'd introduced
us. Bird and I talked many, many times, but
never about music. We'd talk about physics,
mathematics, chemistry... you name it. He'd
had a good education. His mother had seen
to that. He was an extraordinary human
being, a true genius."
In black-and-white video from the '70s,
Lowe is shown producing a session with
guitarist Roy Buchanan. He had Buchanan
play "Misty," and it displays impressive communication between a straight-ahead jazz
guitarist and a down-home, yet flashy rocker.
"We did that at Donte's in L.A.," Lowe
said. "We had a lot of fun, but he had a wife
who was bugging him about something all
afternoon. I finally had to tell someone, 'Take
that lady outside and buy her a hamburger
or something' (laughs). 'Just keep her away
for an hour so I can get this work done.' I got
him to chow down on 'Misty' and the result
was amazing. I knew he had so much talent
and could give us what we were looking for.
That was a hell of a time."
"I toured with Mose Allison down south
once, and we did a concert at Ole Miss. The
school wanted him to speak because he'd
attended. I said, 'We're gonna have to put
you in front of the mic and you'll have to say
a few words.' So the time comes and Mose
steps up and says, 'I came here walking and
left on the run.' They'd caught him growing
pot in his room!" (laughs)
At 94, Lowe offers sage advice to young
players: "Don't sit and practice scales all day.
Learn tunes. Because when you get on the
bandstand, you're going to be playing tunes,
not scales. And harmonize the melody, don't
melodize the harmony. And I reiterate, 'If you
can't hear it, don't play it. Because if you can't
hear it the listener can't hear it.'"
Special thanks to Mitch Holder and Adam Lowe.
PRINT, DIGITAL, OR BOTH!
ORDER ONLINE AT WWW.VINTAGEGUITAR.COM