Joe Lovano - Trio Tapestry

Label: ECM Records, 2019

Personnel: Joe Lovano: tenor saxophone; Marilyn Crispell: piano; Carmen Castaldi: drums.


Grammy-award winning composer/saxophonist Joe Lovano makes his debut on the ECM Records with Trio Tapestry, a new project that integrates the highly expressive pianism of Marilyn Crispell and the inspiring drumming of Carmen Castaldi. Adopting a democratic posture, the group has the pianist and the drummer contributing in an intense way to shape Lovano’s compositions into something uniquely intimate and beautiful.

The opener, “One Time In”, a one-on-one conversation between saxophone and percussion, bristles with deliberately prayerful melodies, unpredictable percussive trajectories, and bright gongs. It leads to the most enchanting piece on the record, “Seeds of Change”, which, gravitating with lamenting intonations, illuminates the world with the warm spiritual light it needs at the present time. Don’t be surprised if you get this positive, energetic current going down your spine as this song firstly caresses your ears and then touches your heart, transporting you to a heavenly dimension.

Crispell introduces “Razzle Dazzle” with pianistic reverie and a generous dash of abstraction. The feel is corroborated by the Motian-esque spaciousness of Castaldi’s brushwork along with the plaintive lines of Lovano.

Sparkle Light” and “Rare And Beauty” exhibit sax and piano in close collaboration, whether in the form of unisons or complementing each other with intensely deep movements, frequent emitters of peacefulness. On the latter piece, the unison statements are a bit more energetic, but there’s still a propensity toward tranquility. Leisurely rhythmic flexibility often welcomes passionate individual statements. However, this is music with commitment and Castaldi’s unobtrusive drumming asserts that there is no space for egos here, only solidarity and integrity. He showcases his gong percussion on “Gong Episode” as well as on “Mystic”, a piece he occasionally agitates with mallets, yet prevailing the general state of musing.

By displaying contemplative virtues, the trio doesn’t resort to showing you everything they can do. What they do here is harder than showing off all their technique and musical prowess at once. These tunes fly and soar before penetrating into our minds. However, compositions like “Spirit Lake” - aesthetically assembled with arpeggiated tension, restless drumming, and emotionally blazing saxophone - and “The Smiling Dog” - the biting closing piece whose intensity expands via crafted rhythmic accents and the strong communicative presence of the artists - bring in many other colors, conjuring up avant-garde jazz routines that never cease to spiritualize and amaze.

The creativity and adaptability of Lovano and his peers stimulate Trio Tapestry to endlessly pique our interest with a lucent musicality from which we don’t want to be apart.

Grade  A

Grade A

Favorite Tracks:
02 - Seeds of Change ► 08 - Rare Beauty ► 11 - The Smiling Dog

Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas' Sound Prints - Scandal

Label: Greenleaf Music, 2018

Personnel – Joe Lovano: tenor and soprano saxophones; Dave Douglas: trumpet; Lawrence Fields: piano; Linda May Han Ho: bass; Joey Baron: drums.

sound prints-scandal.jpg

Dave Douglas and Joe Lovano, two incredible composers/arrangers and stalwarts in the art of playing trumpet and saxophone, respectively, co-lead the Wayne Shorter-inspired quintet Sound Prints, for which they composed original material. Their high caliber rhythm section - pianist Lawrence Fields, bassist Linda May Han Ho, and drummer Joey Baron - spends time creating intuitive bounces that would better serve the soloists while solidifying rapport. Scandal was released on Douglas' Greenleaf Music imprint and marks the band’s first studio session, following Sound Prints - Live at Monterey Jazz Festival, released on Blue Note Records in 2015.

The album’s opener is Douglas’ “Dream State”, a 5/4-metered piece whose magnificent groove underpins a pungent, gospel-inflected motif uttered with conjoint twin-like sympathy by the horn alliance. Subsequently, it becomes two separate lines that burst in a soulful combination of timbre and vocabulary. The trumpeter shows off his wide range and authority while the saxophonist engages in those inimitable, sinuous phrases that are as strapping as they are dizzying.

On Lovano’s bop-fueled “High Noon” and “The Corner Tavern”, the quintet dwells in a state of buoyant elegance. If the former swings uptempo, then the latter conquers with a calypso-like groove, featuring the horn players exchanging improvised lines with edgy moves and logic sequence. Han Ho and Fields also show their affirming soloing skills before re-entering the final theme section, while Baron edits his percussive jabs to wonderful moderation.

Full Sun” and “Full Moon” are contrasting in tone and essence since the former, in opposition to the lyric, spacious, and quizzical latter, is an elated post-bop ride typically structured with flexible solos from bass, saxophone, and trumpet. 

Shorter’s “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum” and “JuJu” are equal parts inventive and reverent, and the band brings them back to life with very satisfying rhythmic ideas and melodic peculiarities. Shades of the honored saxophonist are also present on the beautiful title track, which adds some Miles and Coltrane to the mix, and also on the dreamy ballad “Ups and Downs”, both products of Douglas’ creative mind.

This is a great comeback from Sound Prints, whose effervescent and sagacious playing sounds pretty damn good.

       Grade  A-

       Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Dream State ► 02 - Full Sun ► 09 - Full Moon

Dave Liebman / Joe Lovano - Compassion: The Music of John Coltrane

Label/Year: Resonance Records, 2017

Lineup - Dave Liebman: saxophone, flute; Joe Lovano: saxophone; Phil Markowitz: piano; Ron McLure: bass; Billy Hart: drums.


We couldn’t have asked for better! Two veterans and top-notch horn masters like Dave Liebman and Joe Lovano playing together the bright music of John Coltrane in the commemoration of his 50th anniversary on Resonance Records.

Regardless their different styles, approaches, and timbres, the co-leaders seamlessly adjust their eloquent phrasing and give a new life to these iconic pieces.
Compassion: The Music of John Coltrane features the striking duo accompanied by the also experienced Phil Markowitz on piano, Ron McLure on bass, and the great Billy Hart on drums. 

Locomotion”, an electrifying hard-bop tune first recorded in 1957 as part of the acclaimed album Blue Trane (Blue Note), immediately gets the band together for a ‘crazy motion’ as the title suggests. The vivacity that arises from the rhythm section’s coalition instigates Liebman and Lovano to draw vigorous and articulated melodic sequences full of oblique angles and action-reaction momentum.

The effervescence winds down for “Central Park West/Dear Lord”, a smooth medley where Lovano controls the first part with soulful enthusiasm while Liebman is in charge of finding benevolent melodies and take them to the second, as an ode to the Creator.
The mood changes once more on “Olé”, a lavish modal piece that takes us to Spanish traditions, in the present case, more exciting and less harmful than their bullfighting. Sweet flute intonations set the right tone and are quickly joined by the percussive scratches drawn by the piano strings. Moments later, McLure and Hart underpin a Latin-tinged groove that invites the horns for an urgent, magical feast à-la Coltrane. The tune ends with McLure’s bass ruminations.

Both “Reverend King” and “Equinox” bring hope into the world as true conveyers of a beneficial spiritual aura. The former, a push-pull rubato, is built with bowed bass, flute, and cymbal’s splashes; the latter, flowing at a slightly faster pace than the original, is a minor blues coated with Liebman’s rapturous soprano flights, Markowitz’s poised linkage of chords and melodies, and Lovano’s heartwarming tenor strains. 

The rhythmic sophistication of Billy Hart stands out on “Compassion”, an almost 18-minute devotion that also expands with the saxophonists’ igneous phrases, which converge into unisons and then scatter up to uproars that go in and out of focus.

Liebman/Lovano quintet strikes with ravishment and gusto, showing their reverence for Coltrane’s legacy while exhibiting their own special gifts. 
In addition to knowing inside out the territory they’re stepping into, refinement and dynamism became keys in the process. 

         Grade  A-

         Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 – Locomotion ► 03 – Ole ► 06 – Compassion