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REVIEW 'Bird Songs' DownBeat Editors' Pick

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Wednesday January 05, 2011

From DownBeat Magazine

Joe Lovano Us Five, Bird Songs
By Frank Alkyer

For those who wonder, “Do we really need another interpretation of Charlie Parker’s music?” Yes, we do, and Bird Songs is it. Lovano’s big-hearted tenor and vast imagination make this record a must-have for Bird fans, Lovano fans and jazz fans alike. With his terrific group Us Five—which includes Esperanza Spalding on bass, James Weidman on piano and drummers Otis Brown III and Francisco Mela—this is the followup to the group’s highly regarded disc Folk Art from 2009. While that recording focused on Lovano originals, what we have on Bird Songs are 11 very personal reinterpretations of Parker tunes. For example, Lovano turns the up-tempo “Donna Lee” into a lush ballad with intricate, understated drum, piano and bass work providing a backdrop for Lovano’s love letters sent through his saxophone. “Moose The Mooche” becomes an a great experiment in messing with time and rhythm. And “Yardbird Suite” serves as another shimmering ballad that slides charmingly into a mid-tempo toe-tapper. Lovano’s saxophone playing is always a joy to hear, but this is a group that is developing into one of the best in the business. You can feel them listening to—and playing off—each other and enjoying the moment. The band will be launching this record with a weeklong engagement at the Village Vanguard Jan. 11–16, and an NPR Live At The Village Vanguard session to be broadcast on WBGO (Newark, N.J.) on Jan. 12. Both are must-witness events for the new year.

Read the review online here