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52nd Street Themes
     

52nd Street Themes

by Joe Lovano
 
No musician in jazz has a broader stylistic comfort zone than Joe Lovano, perhaps the most influential tenor saxophonist to emerge during the 1990s. Equally at home navigating the outermost partials or laying down harmonically consonant lines straight in the pocket, Lovano's carved his inimitable voice out of an ongoing dialogue between the Freedom Principle and the

Overview

No musician in jazz has a broader stylistic comfort zone than Joe Lovano, perhaps the most influential tenor saxophonist to emerge during the 1990s. Equally at home navigating the outermost partials or laying down harmonically consonant lines straight in the pocket, Lovano's carved his inimitable voice out of an ongoing dialogue between the Freedom Principle and the Tradition. With 52ND STREET THEMES Lovano takes the latter path -- with a twist. Joined by an ensemble of red-meat New York improvisers in configurations ranging from duo to nonet, the Cleveland native feasts on a bebop banquet, with particular focus on the tunes of iconically romantic bop composer-arranger Tadd Dameron -- a fellow Clevelander -- and the incomparable Charlie Parker. Dameron and Parker, who first met in Kansas City in the late '30s, were prime influences on Lovano's father, Tony "Big T" Lovano, a fixture on the Cleveland scene, and on Tony Lovano's friend and contemporary, Willie "Face" Smith; Smith contributes idiomatic nonet orchestrations of such Dameron classics as"Tadd's Delight," "If You Could See Me Now," and "Whatever Possessed Me,' plus an original, "Deal," a Dizzy Gillespie-ish minor blues that elicits superb solos from all members, particularly trombonist Conrad Herwig. There's a ferocious three-tenor battle between Lovano, George Garzone, and Ralph LaLama on the leader's "Charlie Chan" (a Parker pseudonym; Parker played tenor sax on the tune's original incarnation, "Milestones," on a 1947 Savoy session with Bud Powell. Trumpeter Tim Hagans conjures superb solos whenever called upon; pianist John Hicks contributes his poetic concept to Dameron's "On a Misty Night" and Billy Strayhorn's "Passion Flower" and swings demonically through Miles Davis's "Sippin' at Bells" from the aforementioned Bird on tenor date. Bassist Dennis Irwin and drummer Lewis Nash fly like the wind on a virtuosic up-tempo trio reading of Dameron's "The Scene Is Clean"; throughout the proceedings they impart to every tempo the kind of subtle perfection that would be noticed only if it were absent. Let's not neglect Lovano, who throws down one passionate declamation after another with vocalized tone and intense melodic focus. He offers a beautifully constructed a cappella intro to the title track, Thelonious Monk's "I Got Rhythm" variant; soars operatically with Lalama over Smith's a la Dameron arrangement of "Embraceable You"; makes you hear the spaces between the notes on a vibrato-drenched rubato reading of Billy Strayhorn's "Passion Flower" in a duo with Hicks that stands with the great performances of the classic; addresses Fred Lacey's "Theme for Ernie" at a quicker clip than John Coltrane's famous 1958 version, yet hews unfailingly to the yearning lyric-blue essence of the tune. Performed with the spirit and attitude of the musicians who appeared on the street that never slept in the years of musical innovation that followed World War II, 52ND STREET THEMES is ample proof of bebop's continuing relevance, its vitality amongst musicians born and raised after its heyday. A loving exploration of the music that formed the core of Lovano's sensibility that never descends into nostalgia, it's the latest chapter in the ongoing saga of a fully contemporary voice that incorporates the full jazz timeline in its discourse.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Carlo Wolff
The latest CD by jazz saxophonist Joe Lovano blends New York attitude with Midwestern warmth in an homage to the Manhattan street where bebop ruled in the '50s and '60s. The music here, like that of such other thematic Lovano albums as Rush Hour (his 1995 celebration of third-stream music) and Celebrating Sinatra, evokes the past without being at all archival. Fronting a four-man sax section, Lovano blasts through such strong Dameronia as "The Scene Is Clean" and "Tadd's Delight," refreshes the indelible lyricism of Dameron's lovely "If You Could See Me Now," and, in an intimate duet with pianist John Hicks, velvetizes Billy Strayhorn's lush "Passion Flower." It also features Miles Davis' early "Sippin' at Bells"; Lovano's homage to Charlie Parker, the complex "Charlie Chan," a three-way saxophone conversation between Lovano and fellow tenormen George Garzone and Ralph Lalama that's punctuated by Lewis Nash's pinpoint drums; "Abstractions on 52nd Street," Lovano's extrapolation and embellishment of a Thelonious Monk line; and George Gershwin's "Embraceable You," plushly orchestrated by Willie "Face" Smith and lovingly performed by Lovano. Others contributing sax are Gary Smulyan (baritone) and Steve Slagle (alto); Tim Hagans and Conrad Herwig play trumpet and trombone, respectively, while Dennis Irwin handles bass. Like many other Lovano records, this hews close to tradition but updates it effectively. Besides the fervor of the playing -- Smith says he would've played saxophone, but these New York players were much better prepared -- the song selection is astute, Lovano's originals are solid, and Smith's sole compositional contribution, "Deal," is tasty indeed.

Product Details

Release Date:
04/25/2000
Label:
Blue Note Records
UPC:
0724349666726
catalogNumber:
96667

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