Eighty-five-year-old Mundell Lowe is one of the world's most underrated jazz guitarists. The Mississippi native spent a sizable chunk of his career writing and performing film and TV scores, and gigging as a sideman with such luminaries as Billie Holiday, Peggy Lee, and Charlie Parker. He's performed as part of The Today Show band, worked with Woody Allen on the movie Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex . . ., and composed tunes for Hawaii Five-0. While the gigs paid Lowe's bills, he missed playing as a full-time jazzman. So in the mid-'80s, he returned to his first love.
Since then, he's been busy playing jazz, in all its various colors. And unlike many of his contemporaries, Lowe can handle all the music's different shades: He cut his teeth with bebop, yet is flexible enough to work in today's smooth-jazz scene. But even when he's playing ballads like "If You Could See Me Now" or "You're My Everything," Lowe runs through complex, snakelike rhythms that often leave his collaborators miles behind. He's also capable of working the cool bossa tones of Chet Baker, Charlie Byrd, and Stan Getz into his mix. Lowe performs with guitarist Mike Magnelli and local instrumentalists Dave Morgan (bass) and Val Kent (drums) at his shows this week.