329

Joe Lovano / Us Five: Bird Songs

Troy Collins 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; Lover Man; Birdyard; Ko Ko; Blues Collage; Dexterity; Dewey Square; Yardbird Suite.

Personnel: Joe Lovano: tenor saxophone, mezzo soprano saxophone, straight alto saxophone, aulochrome; James Weidman: piano; Esperanza Spaulding: bass; Otis Brown III: drums and percussion; Francisco Mela: drums and percussion.

Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Blue Note Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Before The Silence CD/LP/Track Review Before The Silence
by John Sharpe
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1 CD/LP/Track Review Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by Mark F. Turner
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Process And Reality CD/LP/Track Review Process And Reality
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 24, 2017
Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read "Everybody's Somebody's Nobody" CD/LP/Track Review Everybody's Somebody's Nobody
by John Sharpe
Published: May 27, 2016
Read "Imagine That" CD/LP/Track Review Imagine That
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 30, 2016
Read "Free for One" CD/LP/Track Review Free for One
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 29, 2016
Read "District 6" CD/LP/Track Review District 6
by Geno Thackara
Published: April 12, 2016
Read "Ante Lucem for Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Quintet" CD/LP/Track Review Ante Lucem for Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Quintet
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 3, 2016
Read "Poetry For The Beat Generation" CD/LP/Track Review Poetry For The Beat Generation
by Sacha O'Grady
Published: December 11, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!