Saxophonist Joe Lovano and his wife, singer Judy Silvano, live in what he describes as “a little house in the trees”, an hour’s drive up the Hudson River from the jazz capital of the world. But their rural retreat doesn’t sound particularly tranquil when the Georgia Straight reaches Lovano on Thanksgiving Monday. In the background a crowd is cheering and clapping, horns are blowing, and a feeling of celebration is in the air.
So what’s going on?
“Well, you know, I played this concert with [free-jazz icon] Ornette Coleman on June 12, Celebrating Ornette,” Lovano explains. “It was a big concert in Prospect Park, New York, and somebody sent me some video they’d recorded on their phone. I made a DVD of it, and I was just checking it out. It was an amazing day.”
Lovano’s not normally known as a Coleman disciple: instead, his big, warm tone on tenor sax and fondness for tunes associated with Frank Sinatra have endeared him to the jazz mainstream. Still, his new venture with trumpet innovator Dave Douglas will appeal to traditionalists and avant-gardists alike. Both free-spirited and hard-driving, the Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas Quintet: Sound Prints pays homage to the past, but in an adventurous manner—which shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that its de facto mentor is another octogenarian radical, the composer, saxophonist, and bandleader Wayne Shorter.
“Dave and I were in the SFJAZZ Collective for three seasons, where we wrote all the arrangements but we played compositions by Thelonious [Monk], McCoy [Tyner], and Wayne. I guess that was 2006, 2007, and 2008, or something like that,” Lovano explains. “So that gave us the idea to put a quintet together, and we were inspired by Wayne’s whole life: as a composer, as a player, and as a person. He lives a poetic life. So we wanted to put a group together and not play his music but somehow honour him, you know?”
The band—in which Douglas and Lovano are augmented by a third wily veteran, drummer Joey Baron, and two future stars, pianist Lawrence Fields and bassist Linda Oh—came together quickly, but its members had to modify their plans once Shorter himself got involved. Apparently, he was so impressed by the Shorter-influenced tunes Douglas and Lovano were writing that he wanted to contribute two of his own, “Destination Unknown” and “Sail Beyond the Sunset”. Plans are to record them this winter for a Blue Note release in the spring.
“We played Town Hall last June on a triple bill with Wayne’s band, and that’s the night he gave us the pieces,” Lovano says. “And he was so excited to talk through the score with me; it was deep. He pointed out some things in the lead parts for Dave and I and said, ‘Oh, this is just a suggestion.’ It’s all scored out; everything is written. But Wayne’s whole approach—with his quartet, with Miles [Davis], and with all the other things we’ve heard through the years—has always been about ‘Play your own song within the song.’ That’s the beauty of it, and it’s like the way we play as a band. Wayne heard us, and he dug the fact that we were creating music inside the music.”
The Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas Quintet: Sound Prints plays the Kay Meek Centre on Sunday (October 19).