Mulatto Radio...is nothing less than one man's attempt to reimagine the whole history of jazz (and every other music he's ever heard). It's an exhaustive and exhausting collection of pieces intended to evoke different facets of the jazz past, embellished by the musicians based on what they bring to the party. Over the course its four discs (and he says he has another three in the can), Lowe creates a Burroughsian cutup of the jazz tradition, juxtaposing century-old two-beat rhythms with whirlwind, post-bop solos, or playing modern, Monkian melodies with Creole band instrumentation, including the best use of the banjo on a modern jazz record since Vernon Reid picked one up in Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society (and Ray Suhy's playing bebop on the axe).
There's lots of great playing here from a large cast; particular standouts include Suhy (a guitarist to be reckoned with, who demonstrates that monster chops and gut-level expression are not mutually exclusive), protean pianist Lewis Porter (who performs solo as well as in ensembles), titanic AACM tenorman Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre (who appears on a half dozen tracks -- his last recorded performances), clarinetist Ken Peplowski, tubist Christopher Meeder, and the leader himself, whose encyclopedic knowledge of jazz style comes to the fore and whose vocalized, bop-inflected tone hardly sounds like the work of an academic. It's really a composer's record (imagine if Duke Ellington was Jewish, trapped in a New England backwater, and unable to play except in the recording studio), and while Lowe provides copious notes explicating each piece, the music stands on its own merit, rewarding in-depth exploration.