A Fireside Chat With Joe Lovano

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We all play with that certain attitude of exploring the music that we're dealing with. Our first rehearsal, running through those tunes, we could have went into the studio that day.
A bird told me that Joe Lovano would be touring with old friend and band mate, John Scofield, Al Foster, and Dave Holland. That was a handful of years ago. Logistics, being that it was a European tour, made it difficult for me to catch the band live. Thankfully, Blue Note recorded the band and that recording, OH!, is not a live recording, but it might as well be. It has all the verve and spontaneity of a live concert. I spoke with Joe Lovano and John Scofield (separately) about their new record, as always, unedited and in his own words.

All About Jazz: ScoLoHoFo, how serendipitous for the Blue Note marketing department.

Joe Lovano: Well, it depends whose tune we're playing. It will be HoScoLoFo or ScoLoHoFo or LoHoScoFo. We just turn it inside out. I guess everyone knows the band as ScoLoHoFo and that is how it is going to read on the recording.

FJ: Your thoughts on John Scofield.

JL: We first met in Boston in the early Seventies. We both went to Berklee College of Music at the same time and played, at that point, in some sessions and things and heard each other and became friends at that time. Through the years, we both moved to New York in the mid-Seventies and had been colleagues on the scene here all those years. In the late Eighties, I joined John's quartet. I think it was around 1989 and was a member of his quartet right at the time he was just signing with Blue Note and so was I, in that period. I played with John's group until '93, I guess, so it was about four years. We did quite a few recordings together and toured all over the place. So this whole collaboration with Dave Holland and Al and John and I really kind of, playing in John's quartet was a springboard into this project. Musically, John is one of the most swinging guitar players on the scene of musicians, as far as an accompanist and a frontline player also. We share a lot of different conceptions together throughout the music, the way we play together because John is part of the rhythm section and he is also part of the frontline with me. So there is a real ensemble concept in John's playing that is beautiful.

FJ: Dave Holland.

JL: Dave is, well, he has been, long before I ever met Dave, he was on some of my favorite recordings and playing with all the people that I was listening to coming up, Miles and Chick Corea, his trios with Chick and the group with Anthony Braxton (Circle) and Chick and then I heard him a lot with Sam Rivers and also with Braxton when I first came to New York in the mid-Seventies, they were playing a lot together. Dave was one of those cats that was an inspiration as far as an improviser and creative musician. All the music he has been involved with his whole life has been just some beautiful, creative exploration. He has been a part of a few of my sessions. One of my first records on Blue Note with Ed Blackwell on drums and Michel Petrucciani on piano called From the Soul. That was the first time, I think, we might have recorded together. And then he is also on my Trio Fascination recording with Elvin Jones, which was a beautiful experience to have him and Elvin together on a session. I heard him with Blackwell a lot also with Karl Berger and in some different situations through the years too. That was a really great collaboration, From the Soul, to play with him and Blackwell together and now with Al because Al is a direct line from Max, Philly Joe Jones, and Blackwell, and Billy Higgins.

FJ: And Al.

JL: Al and I have been playing together since maybe the early Nineties. We did a couple of gigs. He played with me at the Vanguard and a few recordings. He is on the recording I did called Celebrating Sinatra that had woodwinds and a string quartet and a trio with Al and I and George Mraz on bass. That was a really beautiful and creatively crafted session that Manny Albam did orchestrations for and I had him write very sparse parts for Al, so he could just play with his interpretations and be very free within an orchestrated date because Al is one of the most creative improvisers, Fred. He is so free and flexible on his instrument and he has got the most beautiful finesse and sound. His sound on the drums are incredible. He plays the full range of the kit like it's a piano. He is fabulous. Al is really beautiful because he has an open phrasing conception where there is a complete dialogue with him all the time and when the solo is changed and different people play, the energy changes and the moods change throughout your choruses, very dynamic and spontaneous within the form of whatever tune you're playing. There is nothing that is just routine. It is very open and free and that is how the whole group plays. That is how we play together as a band, so there is a lot of dialogue and dynamic shifting and spontaneous orchestrations.

FJ: So this is not a marketing all-star jam session.

JL: Well, we have all played together in a lot of different bands like Al and John played with Miles together years ago. There is a lot of different combinations of things that have happened between us through the years and when we first toured as this group was back in '99, I think. We put a summer tour together and we're all on different record labels too, so we put the group together because it was a combination of people that we wanted to play with. They kind of bill it like this all-star kind of billing, but that kind of happens more in the marketing, but we are playing together because we want to and because of the music. There is a quartet sound that is all its own within this band.

FJ: Most memorable moment of the recording session?

JL: We had just finished a twenty concert tour in July. We were all over Europe and then went to Hong Kong and finished in Hong Kong, flew home, had a day in between, and went right in the studio. So the studio session was really just like another performance, so it was a real concert performance. There is no editing or overdubbing. We set up and played it as a band. After exploring all these tunes, Fred, there's eleven tunes on there, after exploring them throughout the tour and of course, on concerts, we didn't play all eleven tunes in one set. We would stretch out and maybe play seven or something. But to tighten them all up and to really put it together as a performance set was really fun to do and I think the orchestration throughout the recording really shows that we've been playing together and we really thought about how to orchestrate the solo orders and the whole thing. It just kind of flowed really smoothly. That is just how we all play. We all play with that certain attitude of exploring the music that we're dealing with. Our first rehearsal, running through those tunes, we could have went into the studio that day.

FJ: Favorite track?

JL: I think each tune creates a certain mood. It's hard to say, Fred. My tune "New Amsterdam" is a very free flowing piece that every time we played it, it had a different kind of shape. It was really fun to play and then when you listen back to it later, you're just like, "Oh, wow, listen to where that went." I wouldn't be able to pick a favorite track.

FJ: Any tour plans to promote OH! ?

JL: There is some things in the wind. We're going to do six nights at the Iridium in February here in New York. We're planning on doing a few other things. With all our schedules, it is really hard to organize, but I think we will plan something in the future. The first tour we did was in '99 and we did this tour in 2002. That is how long it took to kind of settle into another tour. Those things are always in the wind and we will definitely look forward to regrouping.

FJ: Is that the most challenging aspect, getting everyone's calendar on the same page?

JL: Well, I mean, you have to plan ahead. But that definitely is a consideration. We're all doing a lot of stuff. Dave has a few different groups, as well as I do and so does John. Al is busy doing stuff as a leader as well as playing with McCoy Tyner and other folks. Right now, when you live in the world of music the way we are, there is a lot of things happening. To juggle things and to really do stuff you want to do, you have to plan ahead.

FJ: What irons do you have in the fire?

JL: I have a couple different projects that I have been doing. Most recently, I put out a recording called Viva Caruso on Blue Note and I have a street band that I like to call it that has clarinet and soprano and percussion, Billy Drewes, Judi Silvano, flute and voice and some percussion, Gil Goldstein on accordion and piano, Ed Schuller on bass, and we just did a European tour and went to Havana and just got back the other day from playing the festival down there in Cuba. That is one group that I am playing with and exploring some different kind of folk music, improvisations in a free flowing way. My nonet, we just recorded live at the Vanguard for a recording that is going to come out in September, which is from the 52nd Street Themes, which is one of my recordings. That group is an ongoing thing that I am doing, writing new music and we are playing with that band as well as my trio with Cameron Brown and Idris Muhammad. We've been doing stuff with that group and so I have a few different projects that I have been focusing on. It has been fun to explore different repertoire with different people. I have been just trying to pace it, so none of them bunch up on each other and so there is some space in between. This week, I am playing at Birdland in New York. I am playing at Birdland with a week of Lee Morgan's music. I will be out with Chucho Valdes in April to where you are. I am playing as a guest with his group. We're going to be in Santa Barbara at the college there, in San Francisco, and USC, what is that?

FJ: My alma mater, there is a jazz festival there.

JL: Yeah, that is April 18. And somewhere in Long Beach. I am doing a kind of doing an East Coast and West Coast tour with Chucho and his rhythm section, which is going to be fun. It's been great to play with such incredible musicians and put some things together. But this quartet with John and Dave and Al is really a warm, beautiful, expressive collaboration.

FJ: Holiday wishes?

JL: Well, that everyone just relaxes and nobody gets in each other's business too much and let's just live together and have a peaceful, warm feeling within the cultures on this planet. There is all kind of beauty and there is a lot of pent up energy and a lot of weird energy going around right now, and just to kind of let things settle. Dig the sun and the moon (laughing).

Related Links:
John Scofield Interview

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