Check Ahead: Joe Lovano Us Five, “Cross Culture”
By: Katie Bishop
In an article on Salon.com last week titled "Did the American songbook kill jazz?," arts reporter Scott Timberg explores the genre's reliance on standards — and the idea that constant (and often mediocre) recycling of old familiars like "Autumn Leaves" and "Stardust" has perhaps been the poison slowly sapping the energy out of jazz and its audience for the past forty years.
Judging by his latest album and his most recent work with his quintets Us Five and Sound Prints (co-led by trumpeter Dave Douglas), it seems that tenor sax player and composer Joe Lovano may have reached similar conclusions.
Cross Culture, his third release with Us Five, is made up almost entirely of original compositions — a return to form for the group, whose first album, Folk Art, also eschewed standards in favor of new works. (To be fair, the group's second release, Bird Songs, is hardly a tribute record either — although it included reinterpretations of Charlie Parker standards like "Yardbird Suite," the bulk of the album is made up of imaginative takes on lesser-known compositions from the legendary sax player, who himself was a master of reconfiguring jazz standards of his day.)
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