In the 1930s, Duke Ellington wrote an ambitious tone poem/suite called “Black, Brown and Beige,” which aimed to represent the multihued complexity of the African-American experience, from slavery to freedom, with work songs, gospel, blues and jazz. It was an extended piece that he came back to throughout his career. Taking inspiration from Ellington’s expansive view, composer, saxophonist, band leader and educator Allen Lowe is upping the ante a little, perhaps, in his “Black, Brown and Beige, Yellow, Trans and Queer: My Country Tis of This,” a work in progress that expands the scope of this activist, educational, liberation music.
Referencing the works of artists — musical, literary, comedic and more — like Charles Mingus, Bud Powell, Zora Neale Hurston and Lenny Bruce, Lowe and his ensemble work to make sense of, comment on, transmute, distill and energize a perspective on America in the 21st century, the legacy of ideals of liberty and the actuality of the many constraints on freedom.
This is music that uses culture and creativity to take on history and current events. Lowe has worked with artists like Julius Hemphill, Don Byron, David Murray and many more. He also helped found the New Haven Jazz Festival in the 1990s.
Allen Lowe and the Fake Music Ensemble perform at Firehouse 12, 45 Crown St., New Haven, on Friday, March 23, playing two sets: at 8:30 p.m. ($20) and 10 p.m. ($15). 203-785-0468 and firehouse12.com.