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Joe Lovano: Viva Caruso

Jim Santella By

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The way an operatic tenor such as Enrico Caruso can change his dynamic levels from loud and fiery to kittenishly soft leaves a lasting impression. We've all experienced this because we've grown up with it. The emotion pours, as singer and orchestra collaborate on how to express one tale after another. Joe Lovano has assembled a mini-orchestra to help him pay homage to Caruso and similar tenors who've captured our hearts by expressing what we feel.

Bass, drums, and a bouncing tenor saxophone that nudges the scenery interact with a loose, swinging jazz spirit. Lovano's instrumentation eschews piano. He combines a woodwind chamber ensemble with his unique jazz voice on this album. Adding accordion in places boosts the folk sentiment. Musically, the session ranks superior to many similar projects and sits alongside Lovano's Rush Hour. Both albums possess detailed, multi-layered orchestral arrangements and feature Lovano's fluid saxophone voice.

"O Sole Mio" finds the leader with bass and drums, interpreting quietly. Like the great Caruso, Lovano winds gentle and fluid through the easy melody. Unlike most operatic singers, however, the saxophonist never forces. Slow and seamless, his interpretation remains mild and through flowing. Surprisingly, Lovano includes a stop-time at mid-song and a changeover to straight-ahead jazz, done up right. The song's familiar melody never fades, as the trio's bop-derived take swings lovingly over familiar ground.

The title track shares a knowledge of Caruso's life and times. Accordion, bass and drums accompany Lovano's tenor saxophone in a tour of the land from which Caruso and many other great tenors have evolved. Elsewhere, the leader steers ensembles of varying membership through light classical moments and syncopated dances. "Santa Lucia" carries the same personality as Sonny Rollins' "St. Thomas." "Soltano a Te" and "Tarantella Sincera" apply a powerful lyric sense to quaint melodies. Due out April 23rd, Joe Lovano's homage to Enrico Caruso contains soft edges and lovely phrases. It's a love letter from one great tenor to us all.


Track Listing: Vesto la Giubba "I Pagliacci;" Tarantella Sincera; The Streets of Naples; Cielo Turchino (Deep Blue Sky; Pecche? (Why?); O Sole Mio; Viva Caruso; Campane a Sera (Evening Bells; Santa Lucia; Soltano a Te (Only to You); Il Carnivale di Pulcinella; For You Alone.

Personnel: Joe Lovano- tenor saxophone; Judi Silvano- wordless vocals; Gil Goldstein- accordion; Michael Bocian- guitar; Helen Campo, Dick Oatts- flute; Tom Christianson- oboe, English horn; Billy Drewes- clarinet; Charlie Russo- bass clarinet; Michael Rabinowitz, Kim Lackowski- bassoon; John Clark- French horn; Herb Robertson- trumpet; Gary Valente- trombone; Ed Schuller, Scott Lee- bass; Joey Baron, Bob Meyer, Carmen Castaldi- drums; Jamey Haddad- tambourine.

Title: Viva Caruso | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Blue Note Records


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