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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