Joe Lovano - Streams of Expression

Blue Note

Release date: September 2006

Streams of Expression cover

One of the most important jazz releases of 2006, “Streams Of Expression” shows how to pack innovation, tradition and importance into a single album. Real value is added with the creation of a dedicated “Streams of Expression” web site which delivers “Video Liner Notes” – video interviews, background comments, musical clips – which offer a really informative alternative to conventional CD packaging which means that if you purchase online you don’t have to miss out on the backround details that are so essential in engaging with jazz.

“Streams Of Expression” is a complex work, more a collection of composed jazz pieces than the usual series of tracks. To buttonhole this music as “ Third Stream” jazz would give a good initial approximation. Jazz in the tradition of Gil Evans’ collaborations with Miles Davis as a composed, near symphonic form drawing on classical methods of composition, including twentieth century innovations in the use of dissonance. Jazz mainly delivered around the nonet form – nine musicians delivering a full, near orchestral sound. Jazz as cool. The nonet featured here is a longstanding collaboration of Joe Lovano’s who had recorded together on the album “52nd Street”.

Essentially there are three main elements: “The Streams of Expression Suite”, composed by Joe Lovano, “The Birth of the Cool Suite” scored by Gunter Schuller and based on selected elements the original 1949 /1950 “Birth Of The Cool Suite” and three additional tracks featuring a more Coltrane influenced approach, perhaps included to contrast with the more conventional conception of Third Stream and perhaps suggesting ways forward.

Joe Lovano is the main soloist in all this music, playing a range of instruments: tenor saxophone, alto clarinet and a new woodwind instrument, the aulochrome invented by Francois Louis which takes the form of an adapted double soprano saxophone with properties similar to that of the stritch. Other musicians include: Tim Hagans, Barry Ries (trumpets); Larry Farrell (trombone); Michael Parloff (flute); Charles Russo (clarinet, bass clarinet); Steve Slagle (alto and soprano saxophones, flute); George Garzone (tenor saxophone); Ralph Lalama (tenor saxophone, clarinet); Gary Smulyan (baritone sax, bass clarinet); John Hicks, James Weidman (piano); Dennis Irwin (bass); Lewis Nash (drums). John Hicks died shortly after the recording and is remembered in the video liner notes.

The background to Gunther Schuller’s involvement in this project is explained by Joe Lovano: the 2001 Monterey Jazz Festival was interested in performing a tribute to Miles Davis to recognize his 75th birth anniversary and had approached Joe Lovano; he came up with the idea of commissioning Gunther Schuller to work on a representation of “The Birth Of the Cool” which was eagerly taken up. Gunther Schuller had played French horn on the original “Birth Of The Cool” sessions and had gone on to become the main architect of maintaining the tradition of Third Stream. The result, the “Birth of the Cool Suite” presented here, concentrates on three of the original compositions – "Moonbeams”, “Move” and “Boplicity” - and brings them into a single entity by interspersing newly composed pieces (a prelude, two interludes and a postscript) by Gunther Shuller. A pdf of Gunther Schuller’s liner notes is available. Heady stuff, capturing the cool sounds of all that lower registry woodwind potential in the nonet. As main soloist, Joe Lovano excels.

Joe Lovano’s suite “Streams of Expression” is in five parts: “Streams”, “Cool”, “Enchantment” “Second Nature”, “Fire Prophet”. Strangley, the first two precede the “Birth Of the Cool Suite”and the last three come after it; however, the tracks can easily be shuffled to restore a more sensible running order. ‘Streams” starts out as trio piece, and gradually expands to draw in the listener to the bigger concept. With “Cool” we are truly in Third Stream nonet country when, following a long solo from Joe Lovano on tenor sax, there are succeeding eight bar solos from all the players. “Enchantment” reverses back to a more paired down trio format, emphasising Coltrane–like elements while with “Second Nature” this approach is supplemented with accompaniment from the nonet, bringing in a more free jazz approach. The closing “Fire Prophet”, bringing in the aulochrome for the first time, breaks the last vestiges of cool with a searing declamation.

The three stand alone tracks are: "Buckeyes", "Blue Sketches" and "Big Ben". “Buckeyes”, written by band member Tim Hagans, sounds very much like a modern day version of “Birth Of The Cool” with the nonet in full flow before it breaks down into more free form and dissonant elements. "Blue Sketches" is a very Coltrane influenced trio piece that juxtaposes strongly with the Third Stream material. "Big Ben," dedicated to Ben Webster, is a blues which also features extensive use of the aulochrome.

The sound of the aulochrome may not be to everyone’s taste. It certainly challenges any simple conception of tonal centre, sounding at times like two deliberately out of phase instruments overdubbing each other, bringing back memories of Roland Kirk.

This is a release big in conception and demanding of its listeners. In the strength of his presence and scale of his conception of jazz, where it has been and where it could be going, Joe Lovano is emerging as one of the principal influences on the continuity of the tradition.

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