a British-Jazz trumpet great

Henry Lowther is a jazz trumpet and sometimes classical violin player with a long career at the forefront of the British scene. His wide array of musical interests and capabilities make his discography one of the most interesting to peruse. His preeminence in early free improvisation set him apart early, and his career has seen him play alongside some of the biggest acts of the 20th and 21st centuries. But it is his ongoing contribution to many fields of music that maintain his position to this day.

Source: “P1260973” by Andy Newcombe – Under Creative Commons license

Born in Leicester in 1941, little Henry Lowther began exploring and training his musical talent early. While still a boy, his father gave him a cornet and paid for lessons. Money well spent. Lowther even participated in thef Salvation Army band in Leicester as a child. He fell in love with classical music as a teenager. This inspired him to pick up the violin. Such inspiration led to serious engagement, and he studied the instrument at the Royal Academy of Music under the tutelage of renowned violinist Manoug Parikian.

Joining The Jazz World

But Lowther would not stay in classical music for long, though he would return to it some time later. In his late teenage years, he was listening to jazz, in particular Sonny Rollins. That bop music sunk deep into the young Lowther’s bones. He set down the violin, picked up the trumpet, and started making musical history from there.

That was in 1960. Soon after, he joined the red-hot British jazz scene where he quickly made a name for himself by working in Mike Westbrook’s band, along with Mike Osburn and John Surman. He also played with Graham Collier, John Warren, and Neil Ardley, among so many other fellow travellers in the British jazz scene.

He joined the John Dankworth Orchestra in 1967, and he played trumpet in that band for Kenny Wheeler’s phenomenal Windmill Tilter, released in 1969. He would go on to play and collaborate with John Dankworth, in one form or another, for 45 years. Quite a long term relationship. In fact, many of the collaborations mentioned above would reappear over the decades.

While taking regular gigs on the jazz trumpet in those early years, Lowther began to experiment with free improvisation. At the forefront of this style, he worked alongside the few musicians who would go to those extremes with him, including Jack Bruce, the bassist for Cream.

Expanding Musical Horizons

That connection to rock continued. Manfred Mann, John Mayall, and Keef Hartley all worked with Lowther in the sixties. He even played on stage with Hartley at the 1969 Woodstock festival — yes, that Woodstock festival. No doubt these spots in the rock scene helped him land session gigs working with two Beatles (Harrison and McCartney), Elton John, Van Morrison, and others.

While his contributions to jazz are often cited as his most important work, he’s also played extensively with classical orchestras and ensembles. He was part of the London Brass Virtuosi, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the BBC Radio Orchestra and many, many others. Such work exposes Lowther’s impressive range of talent and interests, while surely scratching an itch that began while listening to classical music as a teen.

By the nineties, Lowther was interested in composing. So he and the bassist Dave Green founded the band Still Waters in 1996. Village Life released their album ID in 1997. The album was well received, and the band continues playing together more than two decades after that first release. He would continue to compose larger and larger pieces, including “Bredon Hill” (commissioned by the Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra for the BBC) and “Diversees” (commissioned by Chaconne Brass).

After such an impressive career, Lowther plays jazz trumpet to this day. He continues all the many paths of his career, from jazz gigs with his band, free improvisation with Satuko Fukada and John Russell, and composing with the London Jazz Orchestra. It appears that at nearly 80 years of age, Henry Lowther is still in love with music, and for that, we are lucky.