Joe Lovano/Us Five: Cross Culture

Jazz artist Joe Lovano never sits still. He’s put out a catalogue of material that always seems to push himself and the listener. One never knows what to expect from this cat! This is his second with him leading the Us Five team of James Weidman/p, Esperanza Spalding-Peter Slavov/b, Otis Brown III-Francesco Mela/dr and Lionel Loueke/g, but this time he veers towards his own compositions (save Billy Strayhorn’s “Star Crossed Lovers”). He also mixes up the horns on the album, as he adds mezzo-soprano sax, tarogato and autochrome to the usually rough and ready tenor.

Strayhorn’s piece has Lovano at his most wooing, as the brooding ballad is caressed with passion. Other  pieces such as “Blessings in May” and the title track have a flow to them, but with a fragmented and jagged edge. A choppy and staccato “In A Spin” is almost overwhelming, and the tribal “Drum Chant” descends into a chaos that sounds like the natives are pretty restless. Modern bop on “Modern Man” and classic bebop on “PM” show that Lovano still has a swinger’s heart, but his compass always seems to look for new horizons.

Blue Note Records

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