You’ve got to wonder about that mind of Joe Lovano’s. He wanders onto a stage with the rumpled demeanor of a grandfather or a favorite uncle and for a spell, if the mood strikes him, he may even play his sax that way, in friendly ever-widening circles that suddenly veer down a jazz rabbit hole and into a dark terrain known only to him. Watch for it. Picture his tenor saxophone now as a lightning rod, drawing current from all of jazz’s past combined into one or two lightning strikes, and you can begin to get a handle on the enormity of Lovano’s grasp on the subject. Undeveloped forms with misleading resolutions: simply put, there is probably no one playing straight ahead jazz at this man’s level today.
Joe Lovano Classic Quartet, "On This Day"
Joseph Salvatore Lovano, 65, was raised in Cleveland by a music-loving mom and a father who cut hair all day and gigged tenor sax nights. Young Lovano himself picked up the alto sax at the age of five, then switched to tenor a few years later and had his musician’s union card before he came of age to drive. Club dates put him through college. He broke out of obscurity in the early 1970s on Lonnie Liston Smith’s big-selling jazz record Afrodesia; international attention came during his tenure during the early 1990s with guitarist John Scofield. Since, he’s done it all, pretty much, including playing sax accompanied only by gongs.
Some 30 albums deep, the Grammy award–winning composer will bring his Classic Quartet to the Athenaeum series: Peter Slavov on bass, drummer Otis Brown, pianist Lawrence Fields. This is a swing-meets-bebop joint, old school on the surface only, meaning, a band that honors the basic structures set forth back during the Golden Age of jazz music — while pushing hard at the borders. In other words, Joe Lovano is about as new as old music can get.