Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Bowie, Joseph

Bowie, Joseph, trombonist; His life has been dominated by music since childhood. Son of a retired St. Louis music teacher and younger brother of Broadway arranger Byron K. Bowie and legendary trumpeter Lester Bowie, Joseph began trombone lessons at age 11. By age 15, Bowie joined St. Louis' Black Artist Group and advanced to studying with saxophonists Julius Hemphill, Hamiett Bluiett and Oliver Lake, all artists of enormous influence and reputation. At age 19, Bowie, with other members of the Black Artist Group, left St. Louis for Paris.

In 1973, Bowie returned to the States via New York where,with Bobo Shaw, he organized the Human Arts Ensemble. Bowie concurrently managed the legendary La Mama Theater and perform with all the major jazz innovators of the day - Cecil Taylor, Frank Lowe and Anthony Braxton. Also during this period, Bowie formed the St. Louis Creative Ensemble with altoist Luther Thomas and performed with the New York All-Star Blues Band which featured legendary bluesman Left Hand Frank and contemporaries Philip Wilson and Henry Threadgill.

In 1978, Bowie composed a band that combined conscious-raising lyrics, a funky rhythmic approach, sinewy bass lines, metallic guitar, assaultive horns topped with maniacal vocals to create the distinctive sound that became Defunkt's trademark. From its inception until 1983, when Defunkt disbanded and Joseph Bowie went into self-imposed exile on the Island of St. Croix to reorganize his life and gain some strength. In 1986, Joseph Bowie returned to New York, reassembled Defunkt, and moved to a larger, more polished production, incorporating an expanded horn section and backup vocalists.

In addition to his work as leader and founder of Defunkt, Bowie has been working with Chicago's Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, touring with Charlie Haden's Liberation Orchestra, performing with the David Murray Big Band, guest lecturing for the Smithsonian Institution's Campus on the Mall Program, and performing and recording with the late pianist Don Pullen, the African Brazilian Connection and the Chief Cliff Singers, a Native American drumming ensemble. Bowie also tours and records with a number of European artists including the Vienna Arts Orchestra, Count Basie and the Sebastian Piekarek Quartet Still, Joseph Bowie's first love and concern is Defunkt.

Defunkt: Razor's Edge; Thermonuclear Sweat; Defunkt in America (1988); The following year, Defunkt signed with Enemy Records and has just concluded a lucrative four-year association during which they released 6 recordings including the critically acclaimed Defunkt Special Edition Tribute to Muddy Waters and Jimi Hendrix; One World (1995)

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