British woodwind player Tim Garland has praised Joe Lovano for "the way he looks forward and backwards on the horn simultaneously, covering the whole tradition, yet looking way, way forward at the same time. Nowhere is this more evident than on Streams of Expression
, where the woodwind multi-instrumentalist teams up with Third Stream progenitor Gunther Schuller on record for the first time since Rush Hour
(Blue Note, 1994). The result is an intrepid album that manages to take a variety of musical influences and join them in a celebration of coexistent form and freedom.
Lovano's five-part Streams of Expression suite is most remarkable for the way it works with what could be confining complexity, but ultimately provides the eleven-piece ensemble surprising room for individual movement. The composer describes the interaction as "creating music within the orchestration, shaping new arrangements as we go along.
"Fire Prophets (Pt. V) is the best example of this. It begins as a high-energy trio featuring the late pianist John Hicks, bassist Dennis Irwin and drummer Lewis Nash. While Hicks has most often been pigeonholed as a mainstream/post bop player, he was equally capable of Cecil Taylor-like streams of abandon. Horn section shotsclearly scripted but feeling like organized chaoslead the ensemble into a solo by Lovano on a new instrument called the Aulochrome, which looks like two soprano saxophones stuck together. The late Rahsaan Roland Kirk may have provided inspiration, but the Aulochrome affords a degree of polyphony that has never before possible, even when playing two horns simultaneously. Lovano puts it to creative use here and on the closing trio piece, the swinging "Big Ben.
Elsewhere the Streams of Expression suite ranges from the relaxed and aptly titled "Cool (Pt. II) to the spacious freedom of "Enchantment (Pt. III). "Second Nature (Pt. IV) revolves around a comfortable tempo and, with everyone soloing either alone or in collective subsets, it reveals Lovano's democratic view of the ensemble. His voice is never less than identifiable, but Streams of Expression is a collective effort.
Lovano splits his suite up, bookending three pieces, most notably the Schuller-arranged and conducted Birth of the Cool suite and trumpeter Tim Hagans' "Buckeyes, both featuring pianist James Weidman in place of Hicks. Schuller's suite takes three pieces from the classic Miles Davis/Gil Evans collaboration, surrounding them with and separating them by newly written pieces that integrate the original compositions in abstract and impressionistic ways that could not have been imagined when Birth of the Cool was conceived nearly sixty years ago.
Perhaps more than any record in Lovano's growing discography, Streams of Expression draws a clear line between the past, present andwith its unique blending of rich orchestration, complex scores and in-the-moment arranginga possible future.
Personnel: Joe Lovano: tenor saxophone, alto clarinet, Aulochrome; Tim Hagans: trumpet (1-5,7-10);
Barry Ries: trumpet (1-5,7-10); Larry Farrell: trombone (1-5,7-10); Steve Slagle: alto
saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute (1-5,7-10); George Garzone: tenor saxophone
(1,2,8-10); Ralph Lalama: tenor saxophone and clarinet (3-5); Charles Russo: clarinet,
bass clarinet (3-5); Michael Parloff: flute (3-5); James Weidman: piano (3-5,7); Gary
Smulyan: baritone saxophone (1-5,7-10); John Hicks: piano (1,2,8-10); Dennis Irwin: bass;
Lewis Nash: drums; Gunther Schuller: arranger/conductor (3-5).