LESTER BOWIE on Fela Kuti (1999)


This article was originally published in Mean Magazine (October 1999), with art direction by Camille Rose Garcia, and an overview of Fela’s catalog by Michael Veal; the main article text, and sidebars, were later reprinted in full in the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 book (thank you Douglas Wolk and Peter Guralnick). Main article text is online here: http://www.arthurmag.com/2009/11/02/fela-king-of-the-invisible-art

by Jay Babcock

Lester Bowie, who died Nov. 8, 1999 of complications from liver cancer, was one of America’s most acclaimed trumpet players and jazz composers. He is best known for his work with the adventurous avant garde troupe Art Ensemble of Chicago. Less than two months before Lester joined the great orchestra on the other side, I was privileged to visit the great lab-coated trumpeter at his Brooklyn home. As we shared half a watermelon, Lester recalled his 1977 trip to Nigeria…

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