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The Artistry of... Joe Lovano

Saxophone man and composer Joe Lovano credits his father, Tony "Big T” Lovano, for starting him off as a player and band leader. As you might expect, it has paid off over the decades. Joe’s first encounters playing the saxophone were at age six. Imagine: small kid, large instrument, and music lessons.

Later, he moved from high school into Boston’s Berklee College of Music. Early on, as a musician, he planted the seeds of a large network. To mention just a few: teacher and vibe player Gary Burton, Woody Herman’s Orchestra, guitarists John Scofield and Bill Frisell, and drummer Paul Motian. Joe himself has mentored a number of younger players, and encouraged others, the best known one being Esperanza Spalding.

He tours, but it is through his recordings that most fans have come to appreciate his artistry and dedication. Some musicians are content to release albums as sets of tunes - which all albums are, strictly speaking. In Joe’s case, fans know that the next Lovano album will be a well thought-out event, a concept recording, an exploration worth waiting for, a set of surprises that that always rewards. It’s going to be ABOUT something and it will have much to say.

He’s made albums with large groups including a nonet, his quintet, and big bands. There have been dedications to, or more accurately spirit channeling of, the works of Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and, in recent years, several albums with his Us Five quintet.

I’ll have to say that whenever his music is on the station I’m inclined to stop and listen carefully. It’s his mastery, the fact that every record is different and new, and his dedication to the history and future that draws me in each time.

Side trip: John Goodman played a jazz musician, Roland Turner, in Inside Llewyn Davis. Turns out Goodman resides in New Orleans and is a friend of Dr. John. Jazz musicians all around. Perhaps, then, it’s not a stretch that in jazzy hat, beard and glasses, he came across looking very much like Joe Lovano. Was it intentional? Joe’s not crusty. Goodman’s character is, in spades. But the resemblance is uncanny.


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