Flautist Lenny MacDowell is based in Germany, where he's an integral part of the local smooth jazz and new age music scenes, as a performer, a producer, and as owner of the eclectic and productive Blue Flame record label. Although some of his albums have a heavy crossover pop influence, MacDowell's primary style involves elements of ambient music, world music, jazz, and new age, combined in varying percentages from album to album.
Born Friedemann Leinert, a name he still occasionally uses as a producer and arranger, MacDowell was classically trained as a flautist before getting involved in the fruitful German progressive music scene of the '70s. Stints in lesser-known Krautrock and progressive jazz bands like Holderlin and Birth Control saw him through the '70s, but, by the early '80s, Leinert had struck out on his own and adopted the name Lenny MacDowell. (Actually, on several sleeves, it's spelled "Lenny Mac Dowell" for no apparent reason.) MacDowell's first solo album was 1984's Balance of Power, an artsy blend of jazz, rock, and new age featuring the side-long title track that was clearly heavily inspired by Manfred Eicher's influential ECM Records imprint. After that debut, MacDowell turned his attention to launching Blue Flame Records, spending most of his time producing, arranging and playing on other people's projects; as well as releasing the occasional duet album like 1989's Autumn Breath, a minimalist, heavily new age-influenced collaboration with keyboardist Christoph Spendel; and organizing Blue Planet, an on-again, off-again group co-led by percussionist Hakim Ludin with more of a world music emphasis. In the meantime, MacDowell also released sporadic solo records like the disappointing Flute Power, a misguided stab at crossover jazz-pop marred by terrible covers of songs by Jethro Tull and the Easybeats, and a much more interesting string of increasingly world music-influenced, new age-oriented albums akin to trumpeter Jon Hassell's work with Brian Eno; these included 1995's Flying Torso, 1996's Radioactive (which includes both new material and reworked versions of older songs), and 1997's impressive The Farthest Shore. ~ Stewart Mason