Black Tie White Noise album coverWritten by: David Bowie, Nile Rodgers
Recorded: June-September 1992
Producers: David Bowie, Nile Rodgers

Released: 5 April 1993

Available on:
Black Tie White Noise
All Saints

Personnel

David Bowie: saxophone
Lester Bowie: trumpet
Nile Rodgers: guitar
Barry Campbell/John Regan: bass guitar
Mike Garson: piano
Richard Hilton, Dave Richards, Philippe Saisse, Richard Tee: keyboards
Unknown: trumpets, trombones

The instrumental ‘Looking For Lester’ is the tenth track on David Bowie’s 18th studio album, 1993’s Black Tie White Noise.

The track is primarily a showcase for the talents of Lester Bowie, the American jazz trumpeter who appeared on several of the album’s songs. The two Bowies trade trumpet and saxophone lines during the track, which also features Mike Garson, formerly of the Spiders From Mars.

Lester Bowie wasn’t in the session I was on, but I played to a track he had recorded on [‘Looking For Lester’]. I wish I had played it better. I was trying to aspire to an Aladdin Sane kind of level and I couldn’t get there. Part of it was maybe I was in a jazz [phase] and wasn’t really thinking about David’s music. Part of it was that I wasn’t there for the band when they played it live.
Mike Garson
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)

The title ‘Looking For Lester’ was intended to emulate John Coltrane’s ‘Chasing The Trane’, according to a 1993 interview with the NME. The track was co-written by Nile Rodgers, whose contribution was not acknowledged on the original pressing of the album.

Doing Black Tie White Noise was a continuation of the conversation we had the first time we met. Once again all we did was talk about jazz and the jazz players we liked. It stretched from my love of Eric Dolphy and John Coltrane and his love of people like Albert Ayler and some of the more atonal type of composers. The very first night in ’82 he had mentioned the name Lester Bowie. Ta-da – he knew about the trumpet player in the Art Ensemble of Chicago! I always believe that David wanted to play in a typical jazz combo with trumpet and sax, to play alongside Lester and they’d have to call it Bowie and Bowie. So in ’91, we hired Lester Bowie and wrote a song called ‘Looking For Lester’.

I knew that David wanted to have an instrumental voice on this record. He didn’t just want to be the singer. Knowing him and knowing how much he loved Lester’s playing and what Lester stood for, we worked on how to record his alto sax on Black Tie White Noise, and achieved a very avant-garde sound.We eventually named it ‘Dog Sax’…

David had a portable recorder and would record real-world sounds and little song ideas he came up with. I would take these recordings, digitize them and that would send us off on another journey.

Inventing the Dog Sax was one of those journeys. I could take his original performance on saxophone and layer effects on it and the original sound would never degrade. By regenerating his sound with my Synclavier and manipulating the pitch, the sound would start to ‘alias’ – meaning the sax sound itself would change because of this manipulating and that’s not something you would normally find desirable. But David would go, ‘Whoa, that was cool! What did you just do?’ I had played it out of his normal range – the saxophone is not supposed to be that high or that low. He was like, ‘No, that’s cool.’ On ‘Looking For Lester’ he allowed me to add some samples and some manipulation, and it was fun. We had a great time.

The vinyl edition of Black Tie White Noise omitted the tracks ‘The Wedding‘ and ‘Looking For Lester’.

The third and final single from Black Tie White Noise was ‘Miracle Goodnight’, issued on 11 October 1993. The 7″ single had ‘Looking For Lester’ on the b-side.

Lester Bowie came in for a couple of days. They took a couple of Bowie brothers pictures together. Lester was a blast – he comes in and he was just completely comfortable and cool and quirky. It was so much fun. We also had a guy come in, Chico O’Farrill, the Cuban jazz arranger. There were big band-y charts on ‘Looking For Lester’.
Richard Hilton, keyboards
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)

‘Looking For Lester’ was included on Bowie’s 1993 privately-pressed compilation All Saints. When the album went on general release in 2001 as All Saints: Collected Instrumentals 1977–1999, it omitted the track, along with ‘South Horizon’, ‘The Wedding’, and ‘Pallas Athena’.