All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Live Reviews

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

6

Joe Lovano Us Five: Kennett Square, PA, January 19, 2013

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
Joe Lovano Us Five
Longwood Gardens
Kennett Square, PA
January 19, 2013

Renowned saxophonist Joe Lovano brought his esteemed Joe Lovano Us Five ensemble to Kennett Square's bucolic Longwood Gardens on a crisp January evening, touring in support of Cross Culture, his 23rd release for Blue Note Records. Performing in the Conservatory's intimate ballroom, the unconventional lineup entertained a sold-out audience in an elegant prewar setting that provided an ideal backdrop for Lovano's timeless artistry.

The capacity crowd was no doubt due in part to the presence of recent Grammy winner Esperanza Spalding, Us Five's original bassist, whose newfound celebrity and current touring schedule necessitated Lovano's recruitment of Peter Slavov as a substitute bassist (consequently, Spaulding and Slavov take turns playing on Cross Culture). Although most of Us Five's members are younger than the leader, pianist James Weidman is his peer; their relationship dates back to the formation of the saxophonist's nonet in the 1990's.

The personnel's most notable detail however, is the inclusion of two drummers. While the idea of using multiple percussionists in a jazz context is not new, simultaneously employing two full trap set drummers is rare. It is to Lovano's credit that he chose Otis Brown III and Francisco Mela, whose congenial rapport offers a fascinating study in contrasts. Despite their very different approaches, they perfectly complement each other, laying out to afford extra space as often as providing dramatic accents, even finishing each other's phrases on occasion.

Lovano opened the set unaccompanied on tenor with abstract, intervallic phrases that gradually congealed into the knotty theme to "Us Five," culled from the group's 2009 Blue Note debut, Folk Art. While alternating with the drummers it became immediately apparent that Lovano's statement in the liner notes to Cross Culture that "everyone is leading and following" is a truism, and nowhere is this more evident than in the quintet's live performances. Their studio albums are masterfully concise creations, yet in concert Lovano spontaneously conducts his sidemen, setting up trios, duos and solos that allow each member ample room to interpret the material in their own fashion.

The opener proved indicative of Lovano's expansive concepts, encompassing spirited statements from all, highlighted by Weidman's cascading linear runs and Spaulding's virtuosic fretwork—whose palpable enthusiasm was shared by her equally beaming partners. Taking his cue, Lovano switched to straight alto and concluded the labyrinthine composition with sprightly trades directed amongst Brown and Mela, his keen rhythmic articulation inspiring focused attentiveness from both drummers.

Stringing together a trio of originals from their newest release, the group launched into the jaunty swinger "Blessings In May," the lead tune, before seamlessly transitioning into "PM," the album's frenetic closer. Gradually, they collectively modulated into a hypnotic rendition of "Cross Culture," the haunting title track. Reveling in the song's bluesy ambience and languid tempo, Lovano demonstrated his sophisticated mastery of the tenor with a series of soulful refrains.

"Yardbird Suite," first heard on Bird Songs, the band's 2011 Charlie Parker-themed Blue Note release, materialized from an impressionistic haze, as the leader's breathy tenor elicitations incrementally intensified, underscored by Brown and Mela's nimble interchanges. The two drummers took turns accompanying Spaulding's quicksilver bass solo, revealing subtle differences in their techniques, even at low volume. Brown's controlled precision offered cool yin to Mela's fiery yang, whose brash cymbal crashes and hard-hitting attack provided dynamic contrast. Spaulding and Weidman's probing extrapolations were followed by Lovano's diaphanous tenor coda, which subtly evoked the graceful spirituality of John Coltrane.

The leader introduced the band members mid-set, before announcing Billy Strayhorn's opulent ballad "Star Cross Lovers," which featured Lovano's most heartfelt and lyrical playing of the date—an aesthetic extended by Weidman and Spaulding's plangent testimonials. Spaulding led the opening of the mesmerizing "Drum Song" accompanied by Brown and Mela's exotic pointillist accents, as a funky Afro-Latin variation on "Golden Horn" slowly emerged, before Brown and Mela engaged in a furious duel that peaked with the thunderous volume of a drum line march. Lovano quickly stated the angular melody of "Modern Man" on aulochrome, closing the triptych medley with zealous fervor.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
One LP
Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Scandal

Scandal

Greenleaf Music
2018

buy
Classic! Live at Newport

Classic! Live at...

Blue Note Records
2016

buy
Soundprints

Soundprints

Blue Note Records
2015

buy
Wild Beauty

Wild Beauty

Half Note Records
2013

buy
 

Cross Culture

Manila Jazz Festival
2013

buy
Joe Lovano - Bird Songs

Joe Lovano - Bird...

Blue Note Records
2011

buy

Related Articles

Read Detroit Jazz Festival 2018 Live Reviews
Detroit Jazz Festival 2018
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: September 19, 2018
Read Beethoven, Barber and Vivaldi at The Jazz Corner Live Reviews
Beethoven, Barber and Vivaldi at The Jazz Corner
by Martin McFie
Published: September 18, 2018
Read Bryan Ferry at the Macedonian Philharmonic Hall, Macedonia 2018 Live Reviews
Bryan Ferry at the Macedonian Philharmonic Hall, Macedonia...
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: September 16, 2018
Read Live From Birmingham: Dinosaur, Meatraffle, Hollywood Vampires, Black Asteroids & Paul Lamb Live Reviews
Live From Birmingham: Dinosaur, Meatraffle, Hollywood...
by Martin Longley
Published: September 16, 2018
Read Binker & Moses At London's Jazz Cafe Live Reviews
Binker & Moses At London's Jazz Cafe
by Chris May
Published: September 15, 2018
Read 12 Points 2018 Live Reviews
12 Points 2018
by Ian Patterson
Published: September 14, 2018
Read "Kyle Taylor Parker at The Green Room 42" Live Reviews Kyle Taylor Parker at The Green Room 42
by Tyran Grillo
Published: March 17, 2018
Read "Kurt Rosenwinkel at Chris’ Jazz Café" Live Reviews Kurt Rosenwinkel at Chris’ Jazz Café
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: January 2, 2018