First a disclaimer: this writer was born a Cleveland Indians and Browns fan. As a jazz listener I've taken much pride in Ohio's native sons and jazz daughters; Art Tatum, Rashaan Roland Kirk, Albert Ayler, Joe Henderson, and Nancy Wilson. While I admit some bias toward the recordings of Cleveland's own Joe Lovano, I hope you will look past it and enjoy this recording.
The tenor saxophone was a natural progression for Lovano, the son of Tony "Big T" Lovano, a fixture on the local '50s and '60s Cleveland scene. His father sat in with all the jazz greats, as Cleveland was a natural stopover gig between New York and Chicago. It wasn't unusual to catch Miles, Duke, or Trane while they were in town, and Big T would make the after hours jam sessions. Joe studied at Berklee before stints with Jack McDuff, Woody Herman's Orchestra, Paul Motian, and Charlie Haden's Liberation Orchestra. While he has some fine recordings as leader on the Soul Note label, his playing has fully matured and flowered with his ten-year association at Blue Note Records. Bruce Lundvall and company have allowed Lovano to put together some interesting projects including a tribute to Frank Sinatra Celebrating Sinatra (1996), a third stream jazz/orchestra record Rush Hour (1995), a duet with the Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba Flying Colors (1997), a historic trio with Elvin Jones and Dave Holland Trio Fascination (1998), plus two great quartet recordings From The Soul (1992) and Quartets (1995), the latter recorded live at the Village Vanguard.
Lovano returns to his Cleveland roots for a tribute to pianist composer Tadd Dameron and to the period of jazz where bebop coexisted alongside swing. Thus, Lovano also includes music by Billy Strayhorn, Miles Davis, George & Ira Gershwin, Fred Lacey, and Thelonious Monk. Dameron, another Clevelander, bridged the two styles, writing the jazz standards "Soultrane," "Hot House," "On A Misty Night," and "Our Delight." His most famous session as leader Mating Call can now be found under John Coltrane's name. His compositions were what many musicians were hip to, now, with the help of Joe Lovano, so are today’s listeners. Seven of the thirteen tracks are presented as Nonet recordings arranged by Willie "Face" Smith, another C-town musician and copyist for Dameron. Lovano utilized the services of the longtime Mingus Big Band musicians Steve Slagle, John Hicks, Gary Smulyan, and Conrad Herwig to get just the right sound for his small large ensemble. The Nonet plays the compositions as slick swing or, if you like, orchestrated bop. These are disciplined musicians grooving difficult charts.
Lovano also present a paired down version of Dameron et al, mixing in a duet with John Hicks, a trio, a straight quartet on Mile's "Sippin' At Bells" and his own thoughtful improvisation "Abstractions On 52nd Theme." What Lovano brings to his project is an almost pure love of life, and his music reflects it. He surrounds himself with the finest tenor saxophonists I've heard in the past decade, Ralph Lalama and George Garzone, plus the unheralded trumpeter Tim Hagans. Did I mention Hagans is also Ohio born?
Track List:If You Could See Me Now; On A Misty Night; Sippin' At Bells; Passion Flower; Deal; The Scene Is Clean; Whatever Possessed Me; Charlie Chan; Theme For Ernie; Tadd's Delight; Abstractions On 52nd Street; 52nd Street Theme; Embraceable You.
Personnel: Joe Lovano: tenor saxophone; Steve Slagle: alto saxophone; George Garzone: tenor saxophone; Ralph Lalama: tenor saxophone; Gary Smulyan: baritone saxophone; Tim Hagans: trumpet; Conrad Herwig: trombone; John Hicks: piano; Dennis Irwin: bass; Lewis Nash: drums.