Catching Up With Joe Lovano
AAJ: You mention Gunther Schuller , I know you also play with Ed Schuller, and with George on Rush Hour. Had you and George played together before Rush Hour ?
JL: We played in Boston together and I played on one recording with George and his band, and a couple of crazy gigs with Gunther. Gunther wrote a piece, 'Journey into Jazz', for Eric Dolphy, Don Ellis and Benny Golson. Leonard Bernstein recited the story with orchestra and a quintet. One of the first times I played with George, was with the Wheeling West Virginia Symphony, and we played 'Journey into Jazz', that was quite a trip. So I've known him for quite sometime. He's a good writer too.
AAJ: I know you played with Lonnie Smith and Brother Jack McDuff. Other musicians speak as reverently about Groove Holmes. How is it possible for young musicians to do that today?
JL: I also played with Groove. I sat in with him. He was amazing. I was in Detroit and I was playing with Lonnie. Groove was playing at Bakers Keyboard Lounge and we went there. I loved Groove Holmes. I had all kinds of records, he played 'Misty' and all those things. Afterwards he said, 'man if you ever need a gig, call me.' (laughing) It was funny because I was about to join Lonnie's band, it was a funny little moment there. I was a kid, 20 years old. It was a thrill to get up on that bandstand and play something. When I first moved to NY I sat in with Chet Baker at a club called Strykers up on 86th St. It just so happened that the cat playing saxophone with him couldn't do the next weekend and Chet offered me the gig. So I ended up playing a couple of Fridays and Saturdays. Harold Danko was on piano. Chet just started playing some tunes, he didn't call them out or anything you didn't know what you were going to play next.
The young cats today, if they have an attitude to do that, they could sit in with anybody. It's your attitude, you could go ask Lou Donaldson, 'Could I sit in and play a tune man?' if you're serious, he'll look at you and say: 'Oh, yeah OK.' When I was a kid, and coming up. I sat in with Sonny Stitt, I was scared to death. He actually asked me if I wanted to play (laughs) 'cause I had my horn when I went to the club.
AAJ: The 'Gary Burton Chair at Berklee' With all the things you're doing, when are you going to have time to sit in that chair?
JL: (Laughing) Yeah, 'cause I don't play sitting down anymore. It's quite an honor, Berklee's first endowed chair. Gary called and offered it to me. I have an open situation and I create my own classes. I put together 2 different ensembles. Straight ahead, where we play famous music; Monk, Bird, Dizzy, Coltrane. Whatever we want to play, whatever I bring in, and whatever the young cats know. My other is new music, I call it my 21st century ensemble. I want them to bring in original tunes and do spontaneous orchestrations.
AAJ: Would you think of featuring some of that at Caramoor?
JL: That could happen. Definitely. I would like to present some stuff from Berklee there. We have to see how that all works out. It's great to be involved with so many great young players.
AAJ: The new CD on Blue Note: On this Day'At The Vanguard , what led to recording the nonet live?
JL: I have been recording and playing a lot with the nonet, it has been developing a personality as an ensemble and the repertoire has been growing. Everybody has their own personality and sound. The way I'm trying to lead this band is pretty open and to let everybody contribute who they are as players. It's just amazing to play night after night with that rhythm section. Things came together for this recording, I wrote some things. Everything was really fresh; we were learning the pieces and how we could expand night after night.
AAJ: You seem to always play with the best musicians, how do you make that happen?
JL: The last few months have been amazing with all of the collaborations I've been doing. Playing with Scofield, Dave Holland, Hank Jones. There are a lot of cosmic things that happen. I'm just really fortunate to have developed through the years with that willingness to be involved with a lot of different settings and situations. At an early age I was just enthralled in the music and the spirit and the different ways cats play and I was never afraid to play with people.