5 Apr 2011

Joe Lovano and Charlie Parker

Joe Lovano played for one evening in Paris recently, at the New Morning, and I went to hear him. I very much enjoy his latest album, entitled Bird Songs, about which Luc, who is a mainstay of the comments section of this blog, first informed me. This album was the basis for the two sets that Lovano played with his current quintet, unusually composed of 2 drummers (a Cuban and an American), a Bulgarian bass player and an American pianist.

It is never an easy exercise (or else so easy that people settle for pure facility) to revisit what have become standards, especially when these were created by one of the greatest that jazz has ever seen (I mean Charlie Parker). Lovano deals with the matter beautifully, never loosing his own style, sound and phrasing. This is perhaps helped by the fact that he plays mainly tenor, compared to Parker's alto. But his occasional use of the soprano sax or the flute are equally convincing.

On the night that I heard Lovano play, he appeared to have a new bass player, called Petar Slavov, who was beautifully musical, as indeed were the two drummers, Francisco Mela and Otis Brown. I admit to having had some apprehensions that two drummers would over-dominate the sound, but they are as discreet as they are complementary, and the combination works just fine.

I notice that Downbeat magazine, in its 58th annual referendum awards, has recently elected Lovano best tenor, best musician of the year, and his US Five as best group of the year. This sort of thing will not impress Luc, but I guess it means something. Anyway I really enjoyed the two sets. His sound is beautiful. 
(photo David Cobbold)

And now for your present. This record is great!


  1. Whether I’m impressed or not is not the most important feature, David. I’m delighted, though, to hear that you’ve liked big Giuseppe. He’s a GREAT musician. Apparently, he did not play the aulochrome on this occasion. Maybe it has to do with this instrument still being the SINGLE existing exemplar of its kind and too risky to travel with or expose in public.
    The two-drummer configuration has been seen before and, you are right, can sometimes end up in “pyrotechnics”. You wrote about the Allman Brothers Band recently, they did it with rock music (as well as King Crimson, Zappa, Genesis, Grateful Dead to name just a few). I remember hearing Phil Collins and Bill Bruford playing together live.
    On Lovano’s album, “Us Five Bird Songs”, the drummers never compete, but almost complement each other. I must add I listen to music from an equipment including two – already old – loudspeakers made by Gilles Millot (ex-JBL guru), who always favored neutral, not over-coloured sound and with no special emphasis put on the very low-end of the frequences. They render a soft, easy-to-listen to and untyring sound.

  2. No Luc, he didn't play this. I'd love to see and hear it. If it is the only one in the world, he probably leaves it at home.
    Yes, twin drummers in rock I have seen and heard, but I don't remember coming across this in jazz previously.
    I have listened to JBL speakers and liked the sound. The ones I have are called JE. Know little about the finer aspects of this stuff.

  3. JBL is arguable the company most beloved by real musicians, as their speakers mostly have this « real sound » character. Gilles Millot, so I’ve been told, used to be one of their main conceptors. I’m not a specialist, though. He was also the guy who systematically - not as an optional cone - put speakers “sur pointes”, maximizing in so doing the weight on every single contact with the ground and hence reducing vibration in a very economic way. Later on, he moved to work for Harman.
    He was granted permission to develop his own range (and brand), which he called LEEDH (stands for Laboratoire d’Etudes Et de Développement Holophonique). I bought second-hand a pair of his “first price” speakers, called “Flirt”, in 1999 and am overpleased with them.
    My lady-friend pushed one three weeks ago: it tumbled and ... there went the tweeter’s sound. I was appalled and beat her to death. I took it back to my retailer – all the way to Belgium – and he could spot the fault to ... broken connections in the very core of the filter. He painstakingly fixed it, re-assembled the whole and now it works again. Not later than yesterday, I’ve developed a system (4 sturdy screws with blind ends) to fix the bottom of the speaker (quite high and narrow, hence unstable) on a larger non vibrating pedestal-type socle, provided with four sferical high quality but small (to minimize surface on the ground) nylon rollers. I’m sure it will be less ideal than the cones, but it won’t fall again.