Lester Bowie

From the 1970s until his death in 1999, Lester Bowie was the preeminent trumpeter of the jazz avant-garde -- one of the few trumpet players of his generation to adopt the techniques of free jazz successfully and completely. Indeed, Bowie was the most successful in translating the expressive demands of the music -- so well suited to the tonally pliant saxophone -- to the more difficult-to-manipulate brass instrument. Like a saxophonist such as David Murray or Eric Dolphy, Bowie invested his sound with a variety of timbral effects; his work had a more vocal quality when compared with that of most contemporary trumpeters. In a sense, he was a throwback to the pre-modern jazz of Cootie Williams or Bubber Miley, though Bowie was by no means a revivalist. Though he was certainly not afraid to appropriate the growls, whinnies, slurs, and slides of the early jazzers, it was always in the service of a thoroughly modern sensibility. And Bowie had chops; his style was quirky, to be sure, but grounded in fundamental jazz concepts of melody, harmony, and rhythm.