Joe Lovano: Trio Fascination

Jim Santella By

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Never predictable, Joe Lovano's saxophone artistry has him moving in all directions at once. Similarly, his ensembles have ranged from large to small, and this latest session features an excellent grouping. Presenting his own compositions, the 45-year-old leader draws upon nearly 30 years of professional experience and dedicates the album to those artists in Cleveland, Ohio who were there for him at the start. After performing with his father's band and attending the Berklee School of Music in Boston, Lovano's career went through the traditional phases that included experience with Lonnie Smith, Jack McDuff, Woody Herman, and Mel Lewis. Teaming with singer Judi Silvano in 1980, the saxophonist discovered a unique jazz presentation that employed the human voice as an instrument amid the timbres of a traditional ensemble. Combining tradition with avant-garde ideas, Lovano brings a unique sound to the modern mainstream. Three of the pieces on this album are extracted from a larger work that Lovano composed as part of a Jazz At Lincoln Center commission.

Dave Holland works as a melodic counterpart to Lovano's saxophone lead. The bassist, who turned 52 last month, began his professional career in his native England before linking up with Miles Davis and later garnering associations with leading members of the modern jazz idiom, including Jack DeJohnette, Herbie Hancock, Sam Rivers, and Chick Corea. Elvin Jones accompanies with a light touch and subtle shadings; however, his periodic emphatic statements add a vital force needed for the balance this trio has attained. Jones, who turned 71 in September, is the younger brother of pianist Hank Jones and trumpeter Thad Jones. His name recognition stemming from his role in the John Coltrane quartet of the early 1960s, Jones has spent much of his career teaching and helping younger musicians to find their own voices in jazz.

Joe Lovano chooses to present his familiar tenor saxophone sound on most tracks; the soprano saxophone is employed on "Eternal Joy," the alto sax on "Studio Rivbea" & "4 on the Floor," and the alto clarinet on "Impressionistic." Victor Young's "I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance With You" is presented in standard form with brushes and strolling bass in support. It's all about the melody, as Lovano offers his heartfelt interpretation of Ned Washington's lyrics. With the leader choosing alto clarinet and Holland using the bow, the trio performs "Impressionistic" with an ear on the melody and a hand on the arrhythmic pulse. Jones provides a feature, using every facet of the drum set to create various textures while Lovano and Holland pair off with doubled melodic lines. Switching to alto sax at mid-stream, Lovano continues to deliver the session's highlight with a superb presentation from all three artists. For the most part, the album contains music from a jazz trio that is steeped in the hard bop tradition, willing & free to unleash creative feelings, and in agreement as to what constitutes the modern mainstream in jazz. Highly recommended.

Track Listing: New York Fascination; Sanctuary Park; Eternal Joy; Ghost of a Chance; Studio Rivbea; Cymbalism; Impressionistic; Villa Paradiso; 4 on the Floor; Days of Yore.

Personnel: Joe Lovano- tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, straight alto saxophone, alto clarinet; Dave Holland- acoustic bass; Elvin Jones- drums.

Title: Trio Fascination | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: Blue Note Records


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