Joe Lovano US Five - Bird Songs

album review

Blue Note

Release date: January 11th 2011

Availability: CD, MP3 Download

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Joe Lovano, recognised now as one of the main bearers of the flame of the jazz tradition, turns his attention to Charlie Parker.

The band features two drummers (Otis Brown III and Francisco Mela), Esperanza Spalding (bass) and James Weidman (piano) in addition to Joe Lovano (Tenor sax).

The first thing you notice is the difference between Charlie Parker's alto and Joe Lovano's tenor. Those lightning alto runs are just of necessity a whole lot slower on the larger instrument. But there are compensations. The difference in the instrumentation makes good on Joe Lovano's statement: 'I didn’t approach this as a tribute record.' What you get is a full-scale reinterpretation of the music. As Joe Lovano goes on to say:

'Putting this recording together I kept wondering how Bird would have developed within these tunes, not just as the incredible soloist that he was but as an arranger and band leader. From what we know about him it is clear that he was into the world of music beyond so called Jazz and Be Bop and I'm sure we would have all been surprised at every turn in his approach just as we were with Miles, Coltrane, Rollins and Coleman, four of his most distinguished and celebrated disciples.'

It's probably impossible to say where Charlie Parker would have ended up. What is clear is that Charlie Parker was in so many respects the starting point of it all. Just about everything that has happened since him in jazz was predicated by that intense deconstruction of popular music, made in near impossible circumstances by a genius who made it only as far as age 34.

For more details,check out our review of Charlie Parker's original recordings .

The jazz life for Joe Lovano is more secure than it ever was for Charlie Parker, but that does not disqualify him from taking on this seminal music.

The result is surprisingly good, especially when the pace is kept to one which suits tenor. The superfast sax runs on the opener 'Passport' or on 'Moose The Mooche', for example, don't work. But when we get to ballads such as 'Donna Lee' and 'Lover Man' the project of transferring those well-known Charlie Parker runs to tenor really starts to make sense.

Reservations aside, this music really starts to open up with the two extended tracks, 'Dewey Square' and 'Yardbird Suite' where the band moves further away from Parker per se and into its own space.

Another worthwhile outing to celebrate Joe Lovano's twentieth year with Blue Note.

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