EVEN IN JAZZ circles, Mundell Lowe isn't exactly a household name, especially on the East Coast where he rarely performs. Guitar aficionados, though, regard him as one of the great unsung heroes of the instrument, and for reasons that are obvious on "The Incomparable Mundell Lowe."
A delightful collection of bop, ballads, blues and lightly accented Latin pieces, the album finds Lowe playing in an intimate trio setting, favoring a sometimes languid, more often popping tone and unfurling both melodies and improvisations with uncommon ease. Like Herb Ellis, his fingers often gravitate toward the blues, but he's a melodist at heart, even when playing at the brisk, boppish pace that's become his specialty.
The single note runs and chordal riffs combined so effortlessly on "? -- Lester Young" and the Sonny Rollins calypso "St. Thomas" are typical of Lowe's unruffled phrasing and crisp attack. Both are buoyant performances nicely enhanced by his rhythm mates, bassist Bob Magnusson and drummer Nick Ceroli. But not to be overlooked are Lowe's tender and eloquent arrangement of the Benny Carter ballad "Souvenirs," and a relaxed and irresistibly hummable reading of "Let's Fall in Love." First rate jazz guitar all around.