Thursday, January 20, 2011
Joe Lovano/Us Five: Bird Songs
It's hard to believe that, until now, he had never truly taken on the legacy of Charlie Parker. My PopMatters review is HERE.
Bird Songs features Lovano's recent working quintet, "Us Five," featuring James Weidman on piano (with the best work of his career), Esperanza Spalding on bass (yup, the new jazz star, as a sidewoman), Otis Brown on drums, and Francisco Mela also on drums. This is not a fleet and nimble unit exactly—they prefer crazier, earthier arrangements, tunes where they can play a little bit bop but also quite a bit free.
There are more conventional takes here as well. "Lover Man" and "Donna Lee" are straight but swinging, with the latter never stating the melody but just licensing Lovano to play like Coleman Hawkins (that is, with unparalleled melodic invention) and the former being a powerful stroll on the new "G Mezzo Soprano" saxophone.
Joe Lovano and his band are a great unit. This is their second outing for Blue Note. May there be more.