Thursday, July 5, 2012

Joe Lovano Leaps In With Little Willie

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“ … His solos display the spontaneity of an ear player, but behind them is the urbane sophistication of a conservatory-trained musician with twenty years experience interpreting difficult charts in big bands ranging from Woody Herman to Carla Bley. Fully conversant with the harmonic vocabu­lary of Coltrane, Shorter and beyond, he is able to navigate complex structures with an uncannily relaxed rhythmic facility and big furry sound at the most intense outer partials. …” – Ted Panken, WKCR, NYC

There is nothing quite like Jazz that’s made in-performance.

You can get an idea of what’s involved in the process of Jazz creation and how monumentally complex it is to pull off well with a reading of the following observations by Ted Gioia [the paragraphing has been modified for added emphasis]:

"If improvisation is the essential element in Jazz, it may also be the most problematic. Perhaps the only way of appreciating its peculiarity is by imagining what 20th century art would be like if other art forms placed an equal emphasis on improvisation.

Imagine T.S. Eliot giving nightly poetry readings at which, rather than reciting set pieces, he was expected to create impromptu poems - different ones each night, sometimes recited at a fast clip; imagine giving Hitchcock or Fellini a handheld camera and asking them to film something - anything - at that very moment, without the benefits of script, crew, editing, or scoring; imagine Matisse or Dali giving nightly exhibitions of their skills - exhibitions at which paying audiences would watch them fill up canvas after canvas with paint, often with only two or three minutes devoted to each 'masterpiece.'

These examples strike us as odd, perhaps even ridiculous, yet conditions such as these are precisely those under which the Jazz musician operates night after night, year after year."

Is it any wonder, then, that Ted has entitled the book from which this excerpt is taken - The Imperfect Art: Reflections of Jazz and Modern Culture.

It’s even more remarkable to consider these factors while listening to tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano’s double CD Quartets: Live at The Village Vanguard.

Recorded over about a one-year interval from 1994-1995 and involving two, different groups, the consistently high level of improvisation that Joe and his cohorts establish on these in-performance recordings is astounding.

See what you think with a viewing of the following video tribute to Joe.

The audio track is Little Willie Leaps In by Miles Davis and features Joe on tenor with Mulgrew Miller on piano, Christian McBride on bass and Lewis Nash on drums. It was recorded at the Village Vanguard in NYC on Sunday, January 22, 1995.