Joe Lovano | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Joe Lovano 

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Joe Lovano

There's something ironic in saxophonist Joe Lovano's popular ascension over the last decade. While the scarce ink glossy magazines give to jazz is reserved almost exclusively for the so-called young lions--that post-Wynton Marsalis generation of well-dressed meticulous neotraditionalists--Lovano, who turns 44 later this month, has amply demonstrated that if jazz is going to remain vital the last thing it needs is sanitized simulations of its past. This chubby, balding hornman who came up through Woody Herman's Herd may not have the photogenic appeal of Joshua Redman, but his music says a hell of a lot more. In the last couple of years Lovano's participated in an array of recording projects that show off his exploratory tendencies. Last year's Rush Hour, his brilliant collaboration with arranger-composer Gunther Schuller, proved that third-stream experimentation doesn't have to be a creative dead end, while later in the year Quartets (both recordings are on Blue Note) showcased his incisive freebop playing in a pianoless group with trumpeter Tom Harrell and more traditional hard-bop blowing in a band with pianist Mulgrew Miller. In January Blue Note will release Celebrating Sinatra, which presents Lovano with Manny Albam's lush but melancholy string arrangements as well as in sparser settings. The instrumental album clearly evokes the singer's brilliant phrasing without aping it: Lovano's playing is marked by a similar effortless lyrical grace, and he manages to salute Sinatra's spirit while still pushing a stylistic envelope. For his Jazz Showcase engagement Lovano leads a terrific quartet featuring pianist Kenny Werner, bassist Dennis Irwin, and drummer Yoron Israel. Friday and Saturday, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. He'll also play with pianist Joanne Brackeen Saturday, 4 PM, Jazz Record Mart, 444 N. Wabash; 312-222-1467. Monday, 8 PM, auditorium, Griffith High School, 66 N. Wiggs, Griffith, Indiana; 219-924-4281.

PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jimmy Katz.

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