Tuesday March 06, 2012
Joe Lovano: Inimitable Streams of Expression
By: Angela Davis
Penned as “one of the greatest musicians in jazz history,” saxophonist Joe Lovano has successfully created a unique voice within the jazz tradition and has contributed significantly to the continuance and development of the idiom.
In just over a quarter of a century he has created an expansive body of work that has covered a broad spectrum of styles. This includes swing, bebop, hard-bop, post-bop, the avant-garde and interpretations of the music of Frank Sinatra and Enrico Caruso. He has explored an array of group settings, including duo with drums, the coveted trio with drums and bass, numerous quartets, a two-drummer quintet, nonets and a full symphony orchestra. Add to this his unique exploration of unconventional woodwinds, including the alto clarinet, wood flute, and the aulochrome (the first polyphonic saxophone invented specifically for him), it becomes readily apparent that his body of work is unique and multidimensional.
Not only has Lovano created a distinctive voice within the tradition, he has created a voice that is arguably inimitable due his extremely wide scope of influences and his constant endeavor to play spontaneously both in practice and performance.
All About Jazz: Can you talk about growing up under the tutelage of your father, saxophonist Tony Lovano?
Joe Lovano: My dad was a real hot player, like an Illinois Jacquet and Gene Ammons style of player. He heard Lester Young live, heard Charlie Parker live, and he had a wispy thing about his playing also that came from Lester. But he liked to play “Flying Home,” those kind of tunes and things, also. He was a real bebopper. My dad was born in 1925 and [John Coltrane and Miles [Davis] were born in 1926. So he grew up in that same swing, modern jazz, free jazz world. In the early 50’s my dad played a jam session with Coltrane in Cleveland. Coltrane was playing in a band with Guy Cross. It was kind of a blues band, and they were in Cleveland for a while, maybe months. So my dad met Coltrane, played a jam session with him. You know, with local cats and all that.
From that time on, he loved Coltrane and had all his records. Growing up, I heard the whole spectrum of Coltrane’s career, in a way. He passed away in 1967 and I was born in 1952, so when I was a teenager, my dad had Kulu Se Mama (Impulse!, 1965), and Meditations (Impulse!, 1965) as well as the Prestige Records—Soultrane (1958), Giant Steps (Atlantic, 1960), and all those things. Later, when I went to Berklee, I bought a Coltrane transcription book, gave it to my dad for Christmas. When I came home the next time he was playing “Locomotion,” and all these solos, he was practicing all these things. I gave him this book, and before I knew it he was playing all those transcriptions from the Blue Train (Blue Note, 1957) record. Because he knew the record, but didn’t really play in that kind of notey way. But I gave him all this stuff to practice, and he was playing the heck out of all of it. Which was really far out because I hadn’t even really studied it like that—especially that “Locomotion” solo.
To read the full interview click here