Joe Lovano: The Intimate Moment of Now

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Friday March 08, 2019


By: Richard Scheinin

‘I’ve had a real blessed life, man, developing myself around some of the masters,’ says Lovano, a Cleveland native who long ago established himself as one of jazz’s most prominent and widely-recorded saxophonists. He has a massive sound, warm and wooly or a bit unruly when he chooses. It’s a personal sound, instantly recognizable; Lovano has a voice. Significantly, he has retained his musical curiosity through the decades. Now a Resident Artistic Director at SFJAZZ, he will lead five different bands during a four-night residency in San Francisco (March 14-17).

He will lead his bebop nonet, followed by a pair of freewheeling trios, one with guitarist Bill Frisell, the other with pianist Marilyn Crispell. He also will perform in a duo setting with Cuban piano master Chucho Vald├ęs, and finally he will lead a ‘Tenor Summit’ sextet featuring saxophonists Joshua Redman and Ravi Coltrane. Underlining the variety of styles and approaches, there’s a unifying theme: ‘It’s not just notes; it’s sounds and feelings,’ he says. ‘It’s not what we’re playing; it’s how we’re playing.’ Also, behind each band, there’s a story; after 40-plus years in the business, Lovano has a motherlode of stories to tap. He describes his life in music as a tapestry of relationships, a weaving together of threads that go back to Cleveland and to life lessons taught him by his father, tenor saxophonist Tony ‘Big T’ Lovano. ‘My dad had a lot of passion. He was a barber, too; he had a family. But he gigged five, six nights a week. My dad was a character, man, and he really instilled in me about being versatile and playing in many settings so you could pay the phone bill. And through the years, that just kept snowballing into different situations, like my playing with Machito in New York and being able to play with the Woody Herman band. When I got that gig with Woody’s band, I was 23, and I ended up on stage at Carnegie Hall for his 40th anniversary, sitting next to Stan Getz. Imagine that.’

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