LIVE REVIEW: Fiery collaboration marks Jazz Series opener at St. Cecilia

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Friday October 28, 2011

Fiery collaboration marks Jazz Series opener at St. Cecilia
By: John Phipps

Tenor saxman Joe Lovano isn’t one to let himself fall into a rut, and his appearance in Thursday night’s kickoff of St. Cecilia Music Center’s 2011-12 Jazz Series provided ample proof of that.

Lovano brought his own version of a talented young rat pack to town in his latest band, Us Five, and wowed a near capacity crowd in the 650-seat Royce Auditorium with a fiery, 110-minute straight set of envelope-pushing tunesmithing on a dozen extended jams.

Lovano, who last appeared in Grand Rapids nearly four years ago with a quartet, went one better this time by adding a second set drummer, and some of the most pyrotechnic segments came as the two – Otis Brown III and Francisco Mela – traded amazing spotlight moments throughout the evening. Add in sparkling piano support from longtime Lovano cohort James Weidman and stunning double-bass work by this year’s Grammy-winning Best New Artist, Esperanza Spalding, and all the ingredients were there for a night of top-of-the-mountain star turns.

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