Jazz saxophonist Joe Lovano, was born on december 29,1952 in Cleveland,Ohio and began playing alto sax as a child. A prophetic early family photo is of the infant Joe cradled in his mother's arms along with a sax. His father, tenor saxophonist Tony “Big T” Lovano, schooled Joe not only in the basics but in dynamics and interpretation, and regularly exposed him to jazz artists traveling through such as Sonny Stitt, James Moody, Dizzy Gillespie, Gene Ammons, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
While still a teenager he immersed himself in the jam-session culture of Cleveland where organ trios were common and Texas tenor throw-downs a rite of passage. In high school he began to absorb the free jazz experiments of Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and Jimmy Giuffre, and was greatly affected by the interaction, which occurred between the musicians.
Upon graduation from high school he attended the famed Berklee College of Music in Boston where he met and began playing with such future collaborators as John Scofield, Bill Frisell, and Kenny Werner. He had been searching for a way to incorporate the fire and spirituality of late-period John Coltrane into more traditional settings.
In 1994 Joe was given the prestigious “Distinguished Alumni Award” from Berklee and was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1998. Berklee also awarded Joe the first “Gary Burton Chair for Jazz Performance” in 2001.
Joe's first professional job after Berklee was, not surprisingly given his roots, with organist Lonnie Smith, which brought him to New York for his recording debut, followed by a stint with Brother Jack McDuff. This segued into a three year tour with the Woody Herman Thundering Herd from 1976 to 1979, culminating in “The 40th Anniversary Concert” at Carnegie Hall, which also features some of Joe's heroes and fellow saxophonists Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Flip Phillips, Al Cohn and Jimmy Giuffre.
After leaving the Herman Herd, Joe settled in New York City where he continues to live. His early years there filled with jam sessions and rent gigs, but eventually he joined the Mel Lewis Orchestra for its regular Monday night concert at the Village Vanguard, playing from 1980 to 1992 and recording six albums with the Orchestra. In addition he joined the Paul Motian band in 1981 and has worked with John Scofield, Herbie Hancock, Elvin Jones, Charlie Haden, Carla Bley, Bobby Hutcherson, Billy Higgins, Dave Holland, Ed Blackwell, Michel Petrucciani, Lee Konitz, Abbey Lincoln, Tom Harrell, McCoy Tyner, Jim Hall, Bob Brookmeyer and many more.
Lovano's debut Blue Note release Landmarks (Blue Note 96108) was released in 1991 and featured guitarist John Abercrombie. Joe's first engagement as a leader (at the Village Vanguard), coincided with the release of that record. The critically acclaimed From the Soul (Blue Note 98636) followed with Michel Petrucciani, Dave Holland and the legendary Ed Blackwell. Recently, readers of AllAboutJazz.com voted From the Soul #34 in their all-time Top 100 Jazz CDs poll. Joe has long experimented with different ensembles, which reflect his searching and dynamic personality. As much a composer as player, Joe is constantly seeking new ways to express his muse.
His third Blue Note album Universal Language (Blue Note 99830) features the soprano voice of Judi Silvano, whose wordless vocals mesh beautifully in both ensemble and improvised passages with Joe, as well as trumpeter Tim Hagans and pianist Kenny Werner. His next album, the 1994 release Tenor Legacy (Blue Note 27014), features tenor saxophonist Josh Redman, and received wide critical acclaim, culminating in a Grammy nomination for “Best Jazz Small Group Recording.”
Predictably unpredictable, Joe's Rush Hour (Blue Note 29629), released in early 1995, reflects his restless searching and desire to expand his musical palette. It features his tenor saxophone with voice, string and woodwind ensembles arranged and conducted by the legendary Gunther Schuller, in compositions by Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman, Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, Gunther Schuller and Joe Lovano. As CD Review's “Disc of the Month” stated, “Music doesn't get any better than this. This disc is a wonder.”Joe and Gunther subsequently collaborated on the score for a Showtime movie, “Face Down,” which starred Joe Montegna.
Joe Lovano ended 1996 with Joe Lovano Quartets at the Village Vanguard (Blue Note 29125), winning “Jazz Album of the Year” in the 1996 Down Beat Readers Poll. Recorded at two separate engagements at the historic Village Vanguard in New York City, the special set features Joe with Mulgrew Miller, Christian McBride, and Lewis Nash on one CD, and with Tom Harrell, Anthony Cox and Billy Hart on the other. Down Beat Magazine's 5-star review says simply, “The Vanguard sessions are extraordinary.”
Joe began 1997 with two Grammy nominations for the Village Vanguard recording and the release of his most eagerly anticipated Joe Lovano Celebrating Sinatra (Blue Note CDP 37718) with Joe's tenor sax surrounded by string quartet, woodwind quintet, voice and rhythm section in arrangements by Manny Albam. As Peter Watrous in the New York Times observed, “This is a perfectly balanced piece of work, quiet chamber jazz at its best, with Mr. Lovano's odd phrasing, with its halts and velocity, taking the music somewhere new.”
Joe Lovano rolled into 1998 with yet another Grammy nomination - for Joe Lovano Celebrating Sinatra - and the release of yet another completely different recording, Flying Colors (Blue Note CDP 56092), a duo album with the great Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba. In a four star review the Los Angeles Times said, “Each piece reveals yet another perspective on the talent of two extraordinary players, clearly inspired by the setting and each other, creating some of the finest jazz in recent memory.”
In 2001, Joe received “Jazz Artist of the Year” honors for the 3rd time in both Critic’s & Reader’s polls in Down Beat magazine spurred by his acclaimed return to the trio format on Flights of Fancy: Trio Fascination, Edition Two (Blue Note CDP 27618). Here Joe gathers four unique ensembles of some of his favorite collaborators for a distinctively varied take on the jazz trio. Joe, who is featured on not only a panoply of woodwinds but on drums, gongs and percussion is joined by trio mates: Cameron Brown (bass) & Idris Muhammad (drums); Billy Drewes (soprano, alto flute, percussion) & Joey Baron (drums); Toots Thielemans (harmonica) & Kenny Werner (piano); Mark Dresser (bass) & Dave Douglas (trumpet). Combined with Lovano's multi-instrumental facility the sonic palette these trios utilize is stunning in its scope. “The different trios that came out of these sessions were, for me, an expression of who I am as a musician,” Lovano says.
In the summer he bowed a dynamic live recording by his Grammy-winning Joe Lovano Nonet. Recorded On This Day…At The Vanguard, this swinging date shows off incendiary charts by Joe, Willie “Face” Smith and Steve Slagle and the hip improvisations of one of Lovano’s most acclaimed ensembles. Some of Lovano’s most swinging and accessible charts featuring masterful improvisations from the acclaimed cast of jazz heavyweights.
As if that wasn’t enough Mr. Lovano followed his stint as the recipient of the first Gary Burton Jazz Performance Chair at his Berklee alma mater with a new position as Artistic Director at the acclaimed Caramoor Jazz Festival in New York. In addition, Joe’s self-released DVD/VHS instructional video Jazz Standards: Solo Interpretations & Expressions, features an intimate recital with the master featured on a variety of horns and classic tunes. Lovano also recently released an instructional DVD through Berklee Press, Berklee Workshop: Jazz Improvisation--A Personal Approach With Joe Lovano.
As the Village Voice proclaimed, “Move over Pavarotti, the great Italian tenor around today isn't Luciano, but Lovano.”
Saxophone Summit Live at Birdland.
Reference - AAJ