Joe Lovano Streams Of Expression Blue Note
Saxophonist Joe Lovano's second collaboration with the estimable composer and arranger Gunther Schuller finds the two musicians navigating similar territory as their 1995 collaboration, Rush Hour (Blue Note). Boasting a similarly varied line-up and mix of compositions, the album consists of two extended suites and three shorter pieces.
Lovano's titular five-part suite bookends the album, following a historical trajectory from neo-classical austerity to trenchant free jazz expressionism, and gaining momentum as it progresses. Dedicated to Schuller's influential third stream work, the opening movement, "Streams," spotlights Lovano's lone, inquisitive tenor before the ensemble's magisterial entrance. Building in rhythmic intensity, it unfolds from Mediterranean influenced folk styles, and angular march cadences, into a brisk bop run that features a slew of brief solos from the ensemble. "Cool" emulates the synchronous work of Gil Evans and Miles Davis. Sauntering along at a leisurely pace, the ensemble members take turns trading fours over a sumptuous mid-tempo vamp.
The concluding half of the suite appears later in the album. Inspired by the angular musings of Eric Dolphy, "Enchantment" materializes as an intimate trio excursion, spotlighting Lovano's abstract, bluesy alto clarinet. "Second Nature" features Steve Slagle's probing alto before building to an expansive collective exploration that honors the lyrical freedom of Ornette Coleman. "Fire Prophets" concludes the suite, climaxing with a rousing tribute to the vociferous exhortations of such iconic 1960's fire-brands as Cecil Taylor and Albert Ayler. Pianist John Hicks holds his own against a caterwauling horn section and relentless rhythm, while baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan ratchets up the intensity level with a solo of unbridled frenzy. Lovano takes the piece out with an otherworldly statement on the Aulochrome.
The Aulochrome, a new instrument designed by Francois Louis, is essentially a double soprano saxophone with a single set of keys, capable of playing simultaneous intervals, clusters and chromatic voicings. On first listen its distinct polyphonic tonality invokes the work of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, but Lovano's take is far more cerebral than Kirk's virtuosic multi-horn extravaganzas.
Teeming with intricate, contrapuntal horn charts, knotty melodies, boisterous solos, angular meters and a limber rhythm section, the Streams Of Expression suite is filled with endless surprises. Solo statements are brief, delivered with verve and conviction. Numerous members of the ensemble are featured along the way, with the leader as predominant soloist. Playing with focused intensity and economy, Lovano never overshadows the ensemble.
Sandwiched between the thematic halves of the titular suite, is Schuller's Birth Of The Cool suite. A re-arrangement of selections from Miles Davis and Gil Evans' seminal third stream masterpiece, it teems with unique voicings and gorgeous textures. Interpolating themes and expanding on the original tunes, ample solo space is provided for each member of the ensemble to breathe new life into these classics. Lovano's tender lyricism drives "Moon Dreams," while the entire ensemble trades brief solos throughout "Move" and "Boplicity."
The individual compositions are less thematic. Tim Hagans' buoyant "Buckeyes" is a bouncy ensemble piece with robust solos from both the writer and leader. The remaining two tunes are stripped down trio excursions. "Blue Sketches" is a brief swinger dedicated to John Coltrane, with drummer Lewis Nash dropping in some Elvin Jones inspired triplets for good measure. Nash is the rhythmic engine driving the ensemble. His inventive fills and interjections spur the group forward, contributing far more than a mere support role. Although based on a simple blues structure, "Big Ben" features the idiosyncratic sonorities of the Aulochrome, blending the lyricism of Ben Webster with the expressive qualities of Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
A conceptual tour de force, this is the most adventurous album Lovano has recorded in years. From expertly arranged, large ensemble compositions to free-wheeling, small group explorations, it is a timeless celebration of the diversity of jazz. Streams Of Expression looks both backward and forward for inspiration, linking the past to the future.
Tracks: Streams Of Expression: Streams (Pt. I); Cool (Pt. II). The Birth Of The Cool Suite: Prelude/Moon Dreams; Interlude No.1/Move/Interlude No.2; Boplicity/Postlude. Blue Sketches; Buckeyes; Streams Of Expression: Enchantment (Pt. III); Second Nature (Pt. IV); Fire Prophets (Pt. V). Big Ben.
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).