Unquestionably an assertive and gregarious improviser, tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano makes every context he performs in a vigorous and adventurous outing.
In a setting of new “third stream”– the fusing of Euro classical and jazz — musings by Gunther Schuller, the composer, arranger and theoretician who pioneered that musical form four decades ago, Lovano is both the guiding beam and the mischievous youngster who keeps things unsettled. Still, his hard-bop work towers over this experimentation.
Erik Friedlander’s cello and Judy Sylvano’s wordless vocals create moods in sheets; accurate and inventive drummer Bob Meyer and Lovano do their best to break through with unsettling rhythms and melody lines.
The evening, dedicated to tunes from Lovano’s new strings-heavy Blue Note disc “Symbiosis,” started with the feeling of a light rain covering a city street, Lovano’s sax being the first car to disrupt the calm.
At other times, all the instruments joined in the type of clamorous slamjam that had its heyday in the ’70s.
We’re still left wondering if it would be any better if the musicians involved were truly top-notch.
Lovano excels in the sax’s lower register. There he milks spectacular solos out of notes that others use only for emphasis and honks.
His skills were unmatched by any of his musicians, though bassist Ed Shuller gave a lengthy solo introduction that was as technically brilliant as it was astute.
The rest of the material — even Schuller’s suite “Flying Colors”– had such an ambiguity that it was difficult to figure out exactly where this music is headed.