Jazz suites have been elaborate works of creative composition since the days of Duke Ellington, and they continue to be on Streams of Expression
. Revisiting the sounds of Joe Lovano's larger ensembles works like 52nd Street Themes
, the recording is a change in direction compared to his two previous quartet releases. Lovano's biggish sound is back, with huge horn arrangements, rich harmonies and a variety of swing styles, both mellow and upbeat.
Now he's reunited with a host of musician friends who have worked with him over the years, as well as noted arranger/conductor Gunther Schuller, who worked on Lovano's Rush Hour
(Blue Note, 1995). While reminiscent of the '50s and '60s jazz era, the results are fresh, thought-provoking, and soaked with music that comments without preaching on jazz's past and present.
An ambitious undertaking, the recording features two extended suites (Streams of Expression; Birth of the Cool) and three stand-alone tunes ("Blue Sketches," "Buckeyes," "Big Ben"). Not to be confused with big band scores, the music boasts large horn sections, but the difference lies in the intricate handling and meticulous changes. They may begin with a single hushed solo, then build to a controlled tempo (as on "Streams Pt. 1") or feature a simple melody that streams into individual solos off the swinging theme (as on the classy "Cool").
One of the many highlights is the the Birth of the Cool suite, conducted by Gunther Schuller, who was one of the original musicians on the 1949 record of the same name by Miles Davis, Gil Evans and John Lewis. The suite's excerpts and changes are still a modern work of exquisite style and depth. Lovano also adds interesting dedications within the Streams suite through movements dedicated to jazz influences: "Enchantment" (Eric Dolphy), "Second Nature" (Ornette Coleman), and "Fire Prophet" (Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp, et al.), effectively covering the full spectrum of jazz improvisation. Critics may say that Lovano reflects too heavily on the past, but he continues to forge ahead with inspired music and a consummate attention to the art form.
Personnel: Joe Lovano: tenor saxophone, alto clarinet, aulochrome;
Tim Hagans, Barry Ries: trumpet;
Larry Farrell: trombone;
Steve Slagle: alto saxohpone, flute;
Charles Russo: clarinet, bass clarinet;
Michael Parloff: flute;
George Garzone: tenor saxophone;
Ralph LaLama: tenor saxophone, clarinet;
Gary Smulyan: baritone saxophone;
John Hicks, James Weidman: piano;
Dennis Irwin: bass;
Lewis Nash: drums;
Gunther Schuller: arranger/conductor for "Birth of the Cool Suite."