Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Joe Lovano Quartet - Classic! Live at Newport (Blue Note, 2016)

This album was recorded on August 14, 2005 at the Newport Jazz Festival. With the title and the raucous crowd noise, you’d think Blue Note was trying to liken this to the famously lauded 1956 Newport performance from Duke Ellington. While this album doesn’t quite reach those dizzying heights, it is very impressive in its own right with Lovano’s brawny tenor saxophone accompanied by Hank Jones on piano, George Mraz on bass and Lewis Nash on drums. “Big Ben” is a rousing up-tempo opener, and Lovano’s huge tenor sound is the perfect vehicle to honor Ben Webster, with a deep, dark tone supported by the rhythm team playing in a very classy manner. The music swings delightfully, with the blustery saxophone juxtaposed by the nimble and swinging rhythm. Everyone’s bebop bona fides are proved on “Bird’s Eye View” with a steaming performance of swaggering saxophone pouring out notes over an irresistible backdrop. This is jazz in its most  archetypal form, distilled into a crystalline performance. “Don’t Ever Leave Me” is calmer and more of a groove centered performance. Jones sets the pace and Lovano follows suit, in a well-controlled and precise solo statement, floating above the meticulous rhythm accompaniment. They develop “I’m All For You” into a full-blown ballad, with very lush and romantic chords from Jones guiding Lovano to a luxurious and classical sound. It may be jazz from central casting, but the music played is of the highest order. The simpatico relationship between Lovano and Jones is on display here but so is a beautiful bass solo and wonderfully feathered brushes. The finish the album with the barn burning “Six and Four” where an imperious groove from the rhythm section sets Lovano free to take an epic solo that covers blues, bop and beyond in a particularly crowd pleasing fashion. Nash is also featured, taking an impressive drum solo and trading phrases with the leader. This was a fine album, and it’s hard not to share the crowd’s enthusiasm for an extraordinary group playing at the peak of their powers. Classic: Live at Newport -

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