Bird Songs Praised by AOL and JazzTimes

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Friday February 11, 2011

From AOL Spinner

Joe Lovano Soars on the Wings of Bird With His Jazz Sax Tribute
By Tad Hendrickson

The legacy of Charlie Parker is something that every jazz musician has to contend with. As a co-creator of bebop up at Minton’s with Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell and others, Parker has assured his legacy by the time he died at age 34 in 1956. He was more than just a landmark innovator, as Bird’s outsized playing and personality in a community known for great playing and colorful characters makes him legend.

The classic trajectory of his life is also part of his story: how he struggled in obscurity, grew up on the Kansas City scene, arrived unheralded in New York City and became a famous star, and then an infamous drug addict, which led to his eventual downfall. It’s a cautionary tale that wasn’t headed by enough jazz musicians, who saw drugs as Parker’s magic elixir. Today we have saxophonist Joe Lovano to thank for turning the story back to the music with the new album, ‘Bird Songs.’ The album features Lovano with his great band US5 taking on the music of Parker and celebrating it.

Read the entire review here

From JazzTimes

Bird Songs
By George Varga

On Bird Songs, the challenge facing saxophonist Joe Lovano’“and it’s a formidable one’“is to tastefully approach Charlie Parker’s iconic repertoire and his impeccably crafted alto saxophone playing as building blocks for previously unexplored possibilities. Bold strides are required, not timid tip-toeing, so the challenge is well suited to Lovano and Us Five, the group he began in 2008 with pianist James Weidman, bassist Esperanza Spalding and drummers Francisco Mela and Otis Brown III.

Long noted as an artist who thinks as hard as he plays, Lovano, 58, creates music that is brainy and brawny, earthy and urbane. On Bird Songs, he clearly relishes the opportunity to take off anew. Lovano draws from a broad lexicon that owes equal stylistic debts to some of the sax greats who inspired Parker (among them Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young) and those subsequently inspired by Parker’s innovations (including John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman). The saxophonist has a spongelike ability to absorb his influences as well as Parker’s, then mix and filter them through his own sonic lens. By doing so, he is able to put his distinctive stamp on Bird Songs’“and, indeed, on Bird’s songs’“much as Coleman did with his late-1959 tribute, ‘Bird Food,’ and Jaco Pastorius did with his 1976 take on Parker’s ‘Donna Lee.’ In Lovano’s hands, that charged bop staple is ingeniously recast on Bird Songs as a seductive ballad.

Read the entire review here