Henry Lowther was born in Leicester, England, in 1941. His first musical experiences were through his father, who gave him cornet tuition, and with the local Salvation Army band. In his teenage years he developed an interest in classical music and studied violin, eventually entering the Royal Academy of Music at the age of 18 to study with the highly respected violinist Manoug Parikian. Shortly after this Henry became interested in jazz after listening to Indian music and, after being inspired by hearing a recording of Sonny Rollins, resumed brass playing on trumpet. During the sixties Henry was one of the first musicians on the British jazz scene to experiment with total free improvisation, notably with the famous Cream bassist, Jack Bruce, and with Lyn Dobson and John Hiseman. He was a member of the original and seminal Mike Westbrook band (which included Mike Osborne and John Surman) and also in 1967 Henry joined the John Dankworth Orchestra, the beginning of an association that was to last almost 45 years. This was the band that recorded the now legendary Kenny Wheeler album, “Windmill Tilter”, and also Dankworth’s Million Dollar Collection which also featured Henry playing violin. In the sixties Henry worked on the rock scene with Manfred Mann and John Mayall, and also with Keef Hartley, with whom he appeared at the famous and legendary Woodstock festival in 1969.
Over the last 50 years Henry’s work on the British jazz scene reads like a “Who’s Who”. He has played regularly with, amongst many others, Gordon Beck, Michael Garrick, Graham Collier, Mike Gibbs, Pete King, Loose Tubes, John Surman, John Taylor, Stan Tracey and Kenny Wheeler. Over the years Henry has toured widely with various artists and bands in Europe, Canada, India, Japan, Finland, the former Soviet Union, Bermuda, Kuwait and the USA. Tours in recent years have included those with the Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, John Harle, Rolling Stones’s drummer Charlie Watts and His Tentet, the London Jazz Composers Orchestra, the New York Composers Orchestra, the Hamburg NDR band and Hermeto Pascoal. He is one of only two or three players in the world to have had the honour of playing lead trumpet with both Gil Evans and George Russell. In 2000 Henry took part in the “Schuller at 75” concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall with the distinguished composer Gunther Schuller and the London Sinfonietta.
Henry’s musical breadth is confirmed by his frequent engagements as a classical player with major symphony orchestras and ensembles, including the London Brass Virtuosi, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the London Sinfonietta, Germany’s Ensemble Moderne and the Matrix Ensemble. Until its demise Henry was for five years the solo flugelhorn player with the strings of the BBC Radio Orchestra, and as a session musician has recorded with Bing Crosby, George Harrison, Elton John, Henry Mancini, Paul McCartney, Van Morrison, Sir Simon Rattle, Nelson Riddle and Talk Talk, amongst many others. Jazz albums Henry has played on in recent years include those with Mark Lockheart, Colin Towns’ Mask Orchestra, Stan Sulzmann, John Surman’s Brass Project, three Kenny Wheeler albums including the highly influential Music for Large and Small Ensembles, and three albums with Jim Mullen and the Great Wee Band including The Sound of Music which was named by four critics as their choice for CD of the Year in 2010.
Henry worked regularly for nearly 45 years playing in many of Sir John Dankworth bands and projects and it was in 2009, whilst playing in duo format with the amazing percussionist and drummer Paul Clarvis in the Stables Theatre, Wavendon, that John played in public for the very last time “sitting in”.
In 1996, along with his great friend the great bass player Dave Green, Henry formed his own band Still Waters to enable him to pursue his increasing interest in composition. In 1997 Still Waters recorded an album, “ID”, on the Village Life label, to much critical acclaim. Although most of Henry’s compositional activity has been directed towards small band jazz as vehicles for improvisation, he has, in the last few years tried to devote more time to larger compositions.
Among these are “Bredon Hill”, written for the BBC, a piece commissioned by the Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra and “Diversees”, a brass quintet commissioned by Chaconne Brass, a recording of which can be found by on their CD, “We Are Not Alone”. Henry has also had two commissions for performances by the London Brass Virtuosi (LBV) – one by Rikskonserter, the Swedish State Arts Agency, and the other, “Sticks and Tones”, by the Jemina Festival in Spain. This was first performed by Henry and Paul Clarvis, along with the LBV, in 2001. In 2010 Henry was invited to Singapore to take part in Brass Explosion. As well as other activities there he was invited to write for and play in concert with one of Britain’s leading brass bands, the Desford Colliery Band. In 2014 he returned to Singapore with the UK Jazz Masters and again in 2015.
In 2015 Henry was invited by Birmingham Jazz to curate the Jewellery Quarter Festival. In this role he played in a number of different bands as well as with Still Waters.
Currently Henry writes for and plays in the London Jazz Orchestra, gigs with Still Waters and the Great Wee Band and also performs free improvised music in trio format with violinist Satuko Fukada and guitarist John Russell. The great jazz composer and conductor Scott Stroman often invites Henry to participate in many of his choral projects and also with Scott, Henry has played the solo role a number of times in performances of all of the Miles Davis and Gil Evans incomparable albums, Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain. This year, 2017, Henry played on two major tours. First with the Julian Siegal Jazz Orchestra and then with the distinguished composer Mike Gibbs. Henry, in fact, played on Mike Gibbs’s first ever gig as a leader at Lancaster University in 1969 and has been a regular member of his bands in England ever since.
In 2011 Henry was awarded a Fellowship by the Royal Academy of Music and last year, 2017, he was nominated for a Parliamentary Jazz Award in the category Services to Jazz.