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May 2005

The Joe Lovano Quartet
May 14, 2005 • Jane Mallet Theatre • Toronto
Joe Lovano, “the greatest Italian tenor of our time”, has a tone I'd describe as chocolate covered cream filled wafer. Backed by his youthful band of three, Lovano roams centre stage of the Jane Mallet Theatre as freely as his fingers run up and down the scales of Dizzy Gillespie’s tender ballad “I Waited for You”, or John Coltrane’s fast, percussive “Countdown.” Lovano sort of dances as he plays, nods to Esperanza Spalding on bass and she starts to walks all over the regular time of the tune with strange times of her own. Joe keeps dancing and playing, leaving holes for solos by James Weidman on piano and Francesco Mela on drums. He’s generous, showing off his talented crew.
Going further up-tempo with a tune called “6 and 4” from his latest album Joyous Encounter, Lovano’s tenor comes swirling out of the gate running in little circles, braying like a bull, settling down into a unison with the piano, letting the melody rise. He plays a lot of notes, fast, and the band is with him, laughing and having fun. What is he saying? “I can I can I can do this, swing it, build spaces for other people to play in. Build high, build low, build fast, build slow, I can play with you and you can play with me, life is full of surprises, many of them pleasant".

The second set starts with a Lovano tune, “Streets of Naples”. Joe opens with a solo figure that he repeats, leaves holes for the drummer and a brilliant piano bit, backs out entirely and lets the band work as a trio, everybody sharp and clear. Francesco takes an amazing drum solo, pounding out Latin rhythms. Joe comes in honking and squeaking in a duo with the piano tinking out high notes like a cowbell, then Esperanza does a cheerful bass solo, playing as if she were a dancer working on her moves, smiling away with the steady click of rim shots behind her.

The evening closes with a couple of Ornette Coleman classics including “Lonely Woman”. Esperanza starts it with an astonishing display of light touch and delicate tone: Joe comes in saxing all oozy, and we’re into a duo of tenor and bass doing different things at the same time. Joe gets into a repeating riff, the band behind him in unison. He switches to soprano that sounds like an oboe, repeating the melody in logical fashion, without much in the way of quotes, fans it out into a weird twilight zone sequence and lets the drums merge the melody down into silence. Lovano comes back with his flowing melodious tenor, everyone picks up a regular beat, and they finish together, smiling.

This concert is part of Nightlife Jazz Tour 2005, organized by James Ross, and presented by Investors Group.

We welcome your comments and feedback
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Report and Photograph by
• •
Stanley Fefferman
for The Live Music Report

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