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LIVE REVIEW: Us Five at Scullers

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Tuesday September 18, 2012

from thephoenix.com

Live jazz from Joe Lovano, Eric Hofbauer, and Taylor Ho Bynum
By: Jon Garelick

Is there a more buoyant personality in jazz than Joe Lovano? The 59-year-old multi-reed player and composer brought his Us Five band into Scullers Thursday night (September 13), “glad to be home” – home being the US, after a tour that brought the band to Taipei and Bogata. “Phew!” Lovano exclaimed. And then he was off — rounded, rich strings of tenor sax notes a cappella before bringing in this superb and unusual quintet: pianist James Weidman, the star bassist Esperanza Spalding, and two drummers, Otis Brown III and Francisco Mela.

The tune was out of Charlie Parker, but transformed, flitting phrases of Bird that flew out and turned into something else over the cross-rhythms of all those drums. You might expect a two-drummer band to be loud, and I guess it was. But it was never overbearing. True, I’ve heard the band with better balance –Weidman, on the other side of the stage, wasn’t as up in the mix as I would have liked, and I’ve heard Lovano’s horns better too. But the churn and flow of this band is just about irresistible. Brown and Mela are like two poles of a rhythmic axis, tilting the band this way and that, finishing each other phrases, alternating spare and busy patterns, or just laying out when Weidman on those occasions when needed nothing more than one set of brushes.

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