Thursday February 24, 2011
Joe Lovano: Drawing On ‘Bird’
by Kevin Whitehead
In the 1940s, Charlie Parker, nicknamed “Bird,” was a prime mover behind the new style of bebop, with its refined harmonies, offbeat rhythms and abstract melodies played at breakneck speed. Bird’s saxophone style was the key: Even musicians who played other instruments modeled their styles on his, and his compositions sounded very much like his improvisations. That mirroring gives his best records amazing coherence.
Bird’s tunes and improvisations are such a good fit, so it’s not surprising that other musicians who play them aim for the same cohesion. But on Bird Songs, Joe Lovano looks for new ways into the material.
When Lovano plays Charlie Parker tunes, he may lower the tempo and temperature, as in “Moose the Mooche,” where he brings out Parker’s lyricism and blues feeling. Or he’ll look for some parallel to Parker’s method. The quintet classic “Ko-Ko” featured Bird’s alto sax and Max Roach’s drums, while Lovano plays “Ko-Ko” on his usual tenor, in a trio with Us Five’s double drummers: Francisco Mela from Cuba and New Jersey’s Otis Brown III. That open format gives them all plenty of elbow room, and lets Lovano show off his broad, tender tone.
Read the entire review here