Us Five, "explore the outer limits of creative improvisation"

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Thursday January 24, 2013


Joe Lovano and Us Five
By: Jeff Nania

Anything goes with these five. Us Five, that is’“Joe Lovano’s newest supergroup that leveled the Egg this past weekend. This group explore the outer limits of creative improvisation in a postmodern rhythmic soundscape where dueling drummers (Otis Brown III and Francisco Mela) take turns at color and time, and bassist Esperanza Spalding (no introduction needed’“she won a freaking Grammy for Best New Artist in 2011) anchors the center.

They were able to provide an absolute shocker of an opener with the tune ‘Us Five’ from the groups release Folk Art. The eponymous track goes about as far out into Ornette Coleman land as you can imagine, with short outburst-like phrases that stop and start eventually working into a fiendish, uptempo swing that itself putters out. Without stopping, it works into another far-out groove, this time with a modern Elvin Jones-ish ride pattern, and Lovano blowing whatever he fells like blowing. Just when you don’t know how far out they can go, they bring it back in with a calm rubato on Charlie Parker’s ‘Yardbird Suite.’ Parker’s tunes provide a kind of umbilical cord from this group to the bop, and specifically the saxophone tradition. Brown and Mela smiled at each other as the rubato made its way to a spirited swing that positively reached for the clouds with the drummers interlocking cymbal blasts.

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