Home » Jazz Articles » Joe Lovano / Us Five: Bird Songs

329
Album Review

Joe Lovano / Us Five: Bird Songs

By

Sign in to view read count
Joe Lovano / Us Five: Bird Songs
An inquisitive musician with a reverence for tradition, Grammy-winning saxophonist Joe Lovano has recorded a number of unique tributes to artists who have inspired him, including Enrico Caruso and Frank Sinatra. But none of his previous homages, not even 52nd Street Themes (Blue Note, 2000), his love letter to the bebop era, are as relevant to his artistic development as Bird Songs, Lovano's modernistic reinterpretation of tunes written by and associated with the great Charlie Parker.

Reevaluating these revered compositions from a contemporary perspective, Lovano rearranges Parker's innovative melodic, harmonic and rhythmic fundamentals into unique new configurations for his critically acclaimed Us Five ensemble. Favoring impressionistic flourishes and kaleidoscopic accents over conventional time-keeping, drummers Otis Brown III and Francisco Mela underpin Esperanza Spalding's earthy bass lines and James Weidman's prismatic piano harmonies with a nuanced sensitivity concordant with Lovano's singular vision.

Approaching Parker's seminal efforts from a composer's perspective, Lovano deconstructs these beloved standards with respectful consideration, while altering the character of each tune in often unpredictable ways. Frequently reducing the breakneck tempo of bebop staples, such as "Donna Lee," Lovano unveils the subtle harmonic nuances of Parker's melodic genius that are often overlooked by interpreters who merely run the changes. The aforementioned tune is an apt case study, imaginatively recast as a sumptuous ballad in the lyrical style of Coleman Hawkins (Parker's conceptual predecessor).

The date's most adventurous inclusion, a spontaneous trio abstraction of "Ko Ko," conveys a very different sensibility, demonstrating Lovano's expansive vision through his melodic tenor fragments and the drummers' contrasting tempos. "Moose The Mooche" embraces the blues with a rarefied air of raw emotional authenticity, while "Blues Collage" inverts them with a contrapuntal arrangement that features Lovano, Spaulding and Weidman simultaneously playing three different blues-based tunes ("Carvin' the Bird," "Bird Feathers" and "Bloomido," respectively) as a charmingly concise neo-classical fugue.

Upholding Parker's legacy, Lovano acts as primary soloist, delivering urbane cadences with a charisma redolent of Bird's larger-than-life persona. Though focusing primarily on his burnished tenor, Lovano debuts a new G mezzo soprano on a probing version of "Lover Man" and brings the exotic aulochrome (his patented double-soprano) to play on "Birdyard," reworking the theme of "Yardbird Suite" into a brief but spellbinding series of hypnotic variations. "Barbados" and "Dewey Square" draw equally colorful textures from Brown and Mela's scintillating percussive palette, embracing the ebullient South American polyrhythms popularized in Parker's era. The hymn-like "Yardbird Suite" moves symbolically forward, ending the record on a note of lilting celebration which subtly invokes mid-period John Coltrane (Parker's conceptual heir).

Marking Lovano's twentieth year recording for Blue Note, Bird Songs is far more than just old wine in new bottles; it is a testament to the historical awareness and creative vision of a seasoned artist whose aesthetic encompasses every facet of the jazz continuum.

Track Listing

Passport; Donna Lee.; Barbados; Moose the Mooche; Loverman; Birdyard; Ko Ko; Blues Collage (Carvin' the Bird-Bird Feathers-Bloomdido); Dexterity; Dewey Square; Yardbird Suite.

Personnel

Joe Lovano: saxophones; James Weidman: piano; Esperanza Spalding: bass; Otis Brown III: drums; Francisco Mela: drums.

Album information

Title: Bird Songs | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Blue Note Records


FOR THE LOVE OF JAZZ
Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

WE NEED YOUR HELP
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.

Post a comment about this album

Tags

More

Full Circle
Nadje Noordhuis
Rite Of Strings Live at Montreux 1994
Al Di Meola / Jean-Luc Ponty / Stanley Clarke
Perspectives
Kevin Fort

Popular

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and includes upcoming jazz events near you.