REVIEWS

On Cross Culture : 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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WYNC

Katie Bishop

I expected Joe Lovano, after an association dating back to 1981, to offer tribute to Paul Motian - the legend who died just two months before the saxist began Cross Culture. Instead, Lovano begins with a sun-drenched burst of joy.

"Blessings in May" swings with a floorboard-rearranging verve, as Lovano switches from tenor to G-mezzo horns alongside pianist James Weidman, bassists Peter Slavov and Esperanza Spalding and drummers Francisco Mela (on the left) and Otis Brown III (on the right). Their tornadic polyrhythms - ever moving, ever surprising, yet also ever in tandem - give the song this layered sense of blissful exaltation.

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SomethingElseReviews.com

Nick DeRiso

On Cross Culture : Most jazz musicians are flexible: it's a philosophical requirement of the job. At 60, Joe Lovano is an extreme case, moving toward universality.

Long ago he developed a tenor saxophone sound for his temperament. It rolls and smears and smokes, all width, rhythmic unto itself; it can fit in or accommodate. His starting place is bebop's complex language, but he seems to be listening to something underneath language and style, something that could be well illustrated by jazz but isn't specific to it. He's good with a particular rhythm, or a structure, or a set of changes, but he doesn't need any of it. And so an ideal Joe Lovano performance might be one that sounds good with New York's advanced-harmony killer elite, but that could be effectively cut and pasted over a trap beat or a string quartet or scale exercises or traffic sounds.

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New York Times

Ben Ratliff and Jon Caramanica

On Cross Culture : Cleveland-born Joe Lovano occasionally makes it back to his hometown for gigs, and those are always treats for jazz enthusiasts. Sadly, his current schedule, which runs through December 2013, doesn't have a Northeast Ohio date. After listening to his newest release with his Us Five quintet, "Cross Culture," which boasts 10 Lovano-composed songs, here's hoping that changes. Working his way through a variety of saxophones, Lovano and his group showcase a sometimes dissonant, sometimes syncopated, sometimes time-signature-ignoring collection of free-form, listenable jazz. The core group features pianist James Weidman, bassists Esperanza Spalding and Peter Slavov (never together, which would be REALLY interesting), drummers Otis Brown and Francisco Mela and guitarist Lionel Loueke. Truthfully, there are times that Brown and Mela, who DO play together, sometimes overpower the music, but that's because in Lovano's mind ALL instruments are lead instruments. Grade: A

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Cleveland Plain Dealer

Chuck Yarborough

On Cross Culture : The saxophonist Joe Lovano has regularly spoken of his malleable quintet Us Five as a band that’s capable of doing and playing anything, and on the group’s brand-new Cross Culture (Blue Note), its third album, that’s never seemed more apparent. The group tackles the Ellington/Strayhorn classic “Star Crossed Lovers,” but the other ten pieces are all Lovano originals-some of which he’s recorded previously in other contexts-yet they all feel more like superflexible settings or structures than rigid compositions, allowing the players great internal latitude.

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Chicago Reader

Peter Margasak

On Cross Culture : "Cross Culture" is an album that requires several listenings before a judgment is passed. It is a lean exploration of jazz that is not eased by pretty melodies or rich arrangements. Instead, it is a display of the broad range of talents of saxophonist Joe Lovano. With his two-drummer band, Us Five, he explores 10 originals and a look at Billy Strayhorn's "Star-Crossed Lovers." Us Five usually has more than that number, and its personnel changes, mostly in the bass chair shared by Esperanza Spalding and Peter Slavov. Just as the band changes, so does its style. "Royal Roost," for instance, is the more-straight-ahead piece of the album. But "Myths and Legends" opens in a ballad-like fashion before moving into a quicker, polyrhythmic direction. That rhythmic strength is steadily created by drummers Otis Brown III and Francisco Mela. Throughout the album, Lovano plays on tenor and G mezzo-soprano saxes in addition to the new autochrome. He even adds some percussion on "Drum Chant," a showpiece for Brown and Mela. "Cross Culture" is an album that is relentless in its energy.

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Pittsburgh Tribune

Bob Karlovits

On Cross Culture : The goatee and barrel-chested frame may be trademarks, but musically, jazz master Joe Lovano is a chameleon.

Whether Hammond B3 jazz, big band, hard bop, avant garde or world music, Grammy winner Lovano has found his voice through it all for going on five decades now. Wednesday night at Dazzle, Lovano proved he’s in no hurry to slow down after celebrating his 60th birthday last month (nor to give up his orange-, black- and white-striped shirt circa 1988). Lovano’s Us Five band played a challenging 7 p.m. set that had the sellout crowd both engaged and slightly off balance, with fiery bursts from Lovano’s tenor and a rhythm section that included two drummers and fellow Grammy winner Esperanza Spalding on bass.

The set drew largely from the band’s three albums together " “Folk Art,” “Bird Songs” and “Cross Culture,” the latter released on the Blue Note label this month. In opener “Us Five,” Lovano chopped the song up into shorter bits with longer pauses while stalking the stage as if in search of reactions from the audience. Pianist James Weidman echoed Lovano’s phrases deftly on “Blessings in May.” Drummers Francisco Mela and Otis Brown III syncopated their beats masterfully during the sharp-angled “In a Spin,” while Lovano played with the tension of the composition, building it and letting it go.

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Heyreverb.com

Sam DeLeo

On Cross Culture : The first two months of this year, circumstances have made it difficult for this writer to produce any full reviews of the fine albums that have been released up to this point. So, here’s a quick look at some of the best.

Don’t forget to look for these recordings at Twist and Shout, Denver’s best independent record store. And when these artists come to town, see them at Dazzle, the place I’d rather be than anywhere else on earth.

Flash! Big surprise! Joe Lovano put out a great album! This all-star lineup gives you everything. And it couldn’t come from a nicer guy.

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Examiner

Rob Johnson

On Cross Culture : Were Joe Lovano to play only tenor saxophone and perform solely in bands led by other musicians, he'd be an indispensable and original voice on jazz's landscape. But on his 23 recordings for the Blue Note label, and for several years prior, Lovano, who is now 60, has been both a centered soul grounded in core jazz traditions and a seeker unafraid to explore musical extremes. His breathy, broad, and sometimes dark-toned tenor saxophone sound seems simultaneously comforting and radical. His solos often bear a clarity that is slowly revealed and thus especially rewarding. His connections to other musicians have blended compassion with challenge and spanned styles and ages. With the late drummer Paul Motian, in a trio that spanned 30 years, Lovano (along with guitarist Bill Frisell) grew from mentee to collective partner. At one point several years ago, Lovano was playing duets with the great pianist Hank Jones (their wonderful 2007 duet CD, "Kids," was recorded live at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Dizzy's club when Jones was 89). Around that same time, Lovano was also planting the seeds for his current Us Five band, and helping usher bassist Esperanza Spalding, then still in college, toward her fast-rising career.

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Artinfo.com

Larry Blumenfeld

On Cross Culture : Generally speaking, the bigger the band, the more support a soloist has. But leave it to saxophonist Joe Lovano to expand his group in a way that makes him work harder: Us Five, which has just released its third album, “Cross Culture,” features two drummers (Otis Brown III and Francisco Mela), two bassists (Peter Slavov and superstar Esperanza Spalding), pianist James Weidman and, on some tracks, guitarist Lionel Loueke, who becomes a de facto second keyboardist. It’s essentially a double quartet with the iron-skeletoned Mr. Lovano filling the roles of two sax players at once, especially when he plays the amazing aulochrome. You’re not only seeing double when you look on the bandstand at the Allen Room, you’re hearing double-a music that seems to exist firmly in two places at once, within the rules of bebop harmonies and yet somehow completely free-form, controlled and totally open-ended.

In addition to the “Cross Culture” album, Blue Note has also made available a video of Mr. Lovano and Us Five playing the opening track, “Blessings in May” (filmed live at the Mint in Los Angeles), and the two performances are so different that it’s hard to believe they’re the same tune. The live performance opens with a dramatic unaccompanied cadenza, which leads into a fast bop number; it’s several segments into the piece before we hear anything that resembles the recording. On camera, the composition is notable for the way it touches on so many different ideas; there are parts when Mr. Lovano just cuts loose and goes into business for himself, but other spots where he reins himself in to interact with one or another in the band.

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Wall Street Journal

Will Friedwald

On Cross Culture : Saxophonist Joe Lovano’s vast experience gives him a profound awareness of what jazz has been, and feeds a fertile imagination for what it can be. Cross Culture is more or less the two-drummers band that made the excellent Bird Songs in 2011 with Esperanza Spalding putting in a bass appearance, and gifted west African guitarist Lionel Loueke guesting in a session celebrating idioms and instruments from all over the world. Lovano’s Ornette Coleman-influenced melodic ear runs free against loose-tempo drumming on Myths and Legends, and explores a kind of abstract blues with Loueke on the title track. Some of the music is infectiously asymmetrical swing, some of it borders on free improv, and Royal Roost is a hip mid-tempo blues displaying Lovano’s and pianist James Weidman’s bebop fluency. PM (written for the late drummer Paul Motian) beautifully balances flying sax variations, stop-start blurts, and a simmering, waterfall-like cymbal sound. This music’s structural latticework is often on display, but the playing mostly floats blissfully free of it.

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Guardian (UK)

John Fordham

On Cross Culture :
Joe Lovano's Us Five is a unique, drummer-intensive band, Francisco Mela in the left channel, Otis Brown III in the right. James Weidman and Lionel Loueke (a guest on six tracks) play piano and guitar. Esperanza Spalding, now reconciling sideperson work and her post-Grammy solo career, shares bass duties with Peter Slavov. All fulfill defined ensemble roles in support of Lovano. Everyone contributes to the nuanced group interplay.

Their other two Blue Note albums, Folk Art and Bird Songs, sat toward the top of the jazz polls in 2009 and 2011. Cross Culture will make the board in 2013, but probably not at the top. It is a quality project, but in a specialized niche. Lovano seeks "universal musical languages" and "energy that … precedes all the styles in jazz." Layers of percussion, exotic instruments like the tarogato, Loueke's guitar colors from Africa: If we are not in the realm of world music, we are somewhere close.

Jazz Times

Thomas Conrad

On Bird Songs : Charlie Parker's music rethought and interpreted in fresh ways

Although he has recorded for Blue Note for 20 years, it is significant that saxophonist Joe Lovano's recordings are now jointly credited to Us Five. Before putting together this exciting young band, Lovano was on a comfortable artistic plateau. The band of two drummers, bass and piano has received great acclaim and helped revitalize his music.

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BBC Music

John Eyles

On Bird Songs : On Bird Songs, the challenge facing saxophonist Joe Lovano-and it's a formidable one-is to tastefully approach Charlie Parker's iconic repertoire and his impeccably crafted alto saxophone playing as building blocks for previously unexplored possibilities. Bold strides are required, not timid tip-toeing, so the challenge is well suited to Lovano and Us Five, the group he began in 2008 with pianist James Weidman, bassist Esperanza Spalding and drummers Francisco Mela and Otis Brown III.

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Jazz Times

George Varga

On Bird Songs : The legacy of Charlie Parker is something that every jazz musician has to contend with. As a co-creator of bebop up at Minton’s with Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell and others, Parker has assured his legacy by the time he died at age 34 in 1956. He was more than just a landmark innovator, as Bird’s outsized playing and personality in a community known for great playing and colorful characters makes him legend.

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AOL Spinner

Tad Hendrickson

On Bird Songs : Sax giant Joe Lovano has blown next to a bevy of jazz greats, and been applauded as soloist and leader throughout his nearly 40-year career. While it might seem surprising that audiences had to wait until his 22nd album for a tribute to Charlie Parker, Bird Songs demonstrates, once again, that Lovano does things his own way, and that great things are worth waiting for.

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All About Jazz

Andrew J. Sammut

On Bird Songs : Given its occasional tendency to revel in its rich past, you could argue that jazz needs another album dedicated to one of its titans about as much as it needs another 19-hour documentary series. But leave it to restless tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano to take the idea of a tribute record and turn it on its head with this collection dedicated to Charlie Parker.

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Los Angeles Times

Chris Barton

On Bird Songs : Joe Lovano / Us Five, ‘Bird Songs’

Saxophonist Joe Lovano has tried on a lot of bands and formats since joining the Blue Note label 20 years ago - duos, trios, quartets, big bands, near-classical ensembles. But his current quintet, Us Five, may be his finest. The band - which features pianist James Weidman, bassist Esperanza Spalding, and drummers Otis Brown III and Francisco Mela - put out the spectacular "Folk Art'' in 2009, and now they serve up "Bird Songs,'' a collection inspired by the work of Charlie Parker. But this is no mere tribute album. Parker's compositions are not played as he intended (speedily, with torrents of notes); Lovano upends them, infusing them with modern sensibilities. Mostly they are slowed down, which gives the musicians room to roam beneath the chords and rhythms. "Blues Collage,'' is a jazz mash-up: Lovano, Weidman, and Spalding each play a different Parker tune at the same time, intertwining the melodies into a new song altogether. Lovano says the idea for this project began when Us Five performed in Barbados and broke out a new arrangement of Parker's "Barbados,'' one with a Caribbean vibe. The tune is full of enthusiasm, and its ethos - finding something new to say through something familiar - encapsulates why Lovano is now jazz royalty.

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Boston Globe

Steve Greenlee

On Bird Songs : For those who wonder, "Do we really need another interpretation of Charlie Parker's music?" Yes, we do, and Bird Songs is it. Lovano's big-hearted tenor and vast imagination make this record a must-have for Bird fans, Lovano fans and jazz fans alike. With his terrific group Us Five-which includes Esperanza Spalding on bass, James Weidman on piano and drummers Otis Brown III and Francisco Mela-this is the followup to the group's highly regarded disc Folk Art from 2009. While that recording focused on Lovano originals, what we have on Bird Songs are 11 very personal reinterpretations of Parker tunes. For example, Lovano turns the up-tempo "Donna Lee" into a lush ballad with intricate, understated drum, piano and bass work providing a backdrop for Lovano's love letters sent through his saxophone. "Moose The Mooche" becomes an a great experiment in messing with time and rhythm. And "Yardbird Suite" serves as another shimmering ballad that slides charmingly into a mid-tempo toe-tapper. Lovano's saxophone playing is always a joy to hear, but this is a group that is developing into one of the best in the business. You can feel them listening to-and playing off-each other and enjoying the moment. The band will be launching this record with a weeklong engagement at the Village Vanguard Jan. 1116, and an NPR Live At The Village Vanguard session to be broadcast on WBGO (Newark, N.J.) on Jan. 12. Both are must-witness events for the new year.

DownBeat

Frank Alkyer

On Tones, Shapes and Colors : Joe Lovano’s recorded debut as a leader features the tenor in a quartet with pianist Ken Werner, bassist Dennis Irwin and drummer Mel Lewis. Together, they perform three originals apiece by the leader and Werner. None of the tunes are simple or based on the chords of standards, but although they did not catch on, the interplay by the musicians, the excellent pacing of tempos and moods, and the consistently satisfying solos make this a set worth searching for.

All Music Guide

Scott Yanow

On Village Rhythm : By 1988, it was becoming increasingly obvious that tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano was on his way to becoming a major name in the jazz world. For this advanced hard bop set, he contributed all of the selections other than Charles Mingus’ “Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love,” including a tribute to his father, tenorman Tony “Big T” Lovano. Teamed with trumpeter Tom Harrell, pianist Kenny Werner, bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Paul Motian, Lovano is heard throughout in his early prime, playing inventive and generally concise improvisations that were beginning to become distinctive.

All Music Guide

Scott Yanow

On Worlds : Lovano excels on the tenor and soprano saxes as well as the obscure alto clarinet, and Silvano’s adventurous improvisations demonstrate that she was already quite distinctive in 19…

All Music Guide

Alex Henderson

On Landmarks : Although the title of this CD makes it sound as if tenor-saxophonist Joe Lovano was performing veteran jazz classics on this date, all but one of the ten songs played by his quintet are actually Lovano originals. With strong assistance provided by guitarist John Abercrombie, pianist Ken Werner, bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Bill Stewart, Lovano often sounds like a mixture of Dewey Redman and early John Coltrane on his enjoyable set. His music has enough variety to hold one’s interest, Abercrombie is in particularly strong form and Lovano is consistently creative during the modern mainstream music.

All Music Guide

Scott Yanow

On Sounds of Joy : The Lovano date is a tour de force. In, out, the blues, ballads, the man from Cleveland has it all covered, from A to Z and beyond.

Jazz Times

Bret Primack

On From The Soul : Joe Lovano heads a lineup with pianist Michel Petrucciani, bassist Dave Holland, and late drummer Ed Blackwell. It’s hard-edged, explosive playing all around, with Blackwell laying down his patented bombs while Petrucciani and Holland converge behind Lovano’s dynamic solos.

All Music Guide

Ron Wynn

On Universal Language : Universal Language is one of Joe Lovano’s most ambitious and successsful albums, an attempt to prove the cliche that music is indeed the universal language. He does this by writing a set of ten original compositions that cover a broad spectrum of sounds and styles, from hard bop to worldbeat-influenced post-bop. His band — trumpeter Tim Hagans, drummer Jack DeJohnette, pianist Kenny Werner, vocalist Judi Silvano and bassists Charlie Haden, Scott Lee and Steve Swallow — handle the subtleties of the music expertly, bringing the melodic themes into unexpected territory. Silvano’s voice is used as texture, not a lead instrument, which helps give the music complexity and an otherworldly depth. It’s an unabashedly adventurous and risky project, and it works frighteningly well.

All Music Guide

Stephen Thomas Erlewine

On Tenor Legacy : Joe Lovano welcomes Joshua Redman to his sextet set (which also features pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist Christian McBride, drummer Lewis Nash and percussionist Don Alias) and, rather than jam on standards, Joe Lovano composed five new originals, revived three obscurities and only chose to perform two familiar pieces. By varying the styles and instrumentation (for example “Bread and Wine” does not have piano or bass), Lovano has created a set with a great deal of variety and some surprising moments. The two tenors (who have distinctive sounds) work together fine and some chances are taken. This matchup works well.

All Music Guide

Scott Yanow

On Ten Tales : …melody is never far from the forefront here, thanks to Lovano’s deep lyricism and Romano’s easygoing pulse; even their most abstract excursions, like a bristling Dragons Are, seem rooted in song. Drawing equally from the lexicon of John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, Lovano strikes an imploring chord that suffuses the length of the album.

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Jazz Times

Nate Chinen

On Celebrating Sinatra : Tribute albums can seem tawdry at times: an effort by the artist to trade on the talent and reputation of another. At other times, they are transcendent, a happy confluence of inspiration and opportunity. This is definitely in the latter category. Saxophonist Joe Lovano has brought together a set of talents that would have the Rat Pack doing their own version of the Matinee Swoon.

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Jazz Times

Bill Bennett

On Flying Colors : The art of the duo, dual reflection, appears to be gradually replacing the navel gazing solo impressionism that was such a vogue step in the wake of Keith Jarrett’s inward visionings of the ’70s. Many artists are finding the unfettered engagement of a sole collaborator to be a neat way of playing largely unencumbered while still engaging one of the basic elements of jazz-interaction between instruments. Such is the case with this issue from one of the tenor sax titans of our time and the exciting piano stylings of a man equally at home with montuno and Monk.

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Jazz Times

Willard Jenkins

On Trio Fascination: Edition One : Listeners whose first exposure to Joe Lovano was his Blue Note output of the 1990s might assume that Quartets (recorded at New York’s famous Village Vanguard) was his first live album. But in fact, Worlds is a live recording that was made before Lovano signed with Blue Note and became a such a huge name in the jazz world. Recorded at the Amiens International Jazz Festival in France on May 5, 1989, Worlds finds the saxman leading a group that includes his wife, Judi Silvano, on vocals, Bill Frisell on guitar, Tim Hagans on trumpet, Gary Valente on trombone, Henri Texier on bass, and Paul Motian on drums. Lovano excels on the tenor and soprano saxes as well as the obscure alto clarinet, and Silvano’s adventurous improvisations demonstrate that she was already quite distinctive in 1989; nor are Frisell’s meaty solos anything to complain about. Nonetheless, this is hardly a performance that goes out of its way to be accessible — classical-influenced post-bop pieces like “Tafabalewa Square,” “Spirit of the Night,” and “Round Dance” are as angular as they are cerebral and abstract. But if the listener is willing to accept this uncompromising, challenging CD on its own terms, the rewards are abundant.

All Music Guide

Alex Henderson

On Friendly Fire : Track after track, Lovano and Osby confirm their marquee status. Consistently, their flinty exchanges provoke them to go beyond their usual high standards of passionate intelligence.

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Jazz Times

Bill Shoemaker

On Friendly Fire : The teaming of Joe Lovano and Greg Osby, two of the most exciting saxophonists of the ’90s, is kind of a dream come true, and it’s a pleasure to say that Friendly Fire doesn’t disappoint. True, it may not be as adventurous as some listeners may have hoped for, but it’s undoubtedly vibrant hard-bop with an evident adventurous streak. Lovano and Osby are both first-class improvisers, and they turn in dynamic performances throughout the album, whether it’s on originals or standards. They turn Friendly Fire into a compelling listen that’s the musical equivalent of the title’s promise.

All Music Guide

Stephen Thomas Erlewine

On Flights of Fancy: Trio, Fascination, Volume 2 : The saxophonist’s association with Drewes and Baron dates back to the early ’70s. So Lovano’s trio fascination has deep roots, and the music on this record is a cumulative and probably near-exhaustive survey of his abilities within the form.

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All Music Guide

David R. Adler

On Viva Caruso : Viva Caruso is easily one of tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano’s most ambitious and enjoyable recordings…(and)finds the reedman adapting orchestral melodies and harmonies to a jazz format…Lovano reworks many of the songs the singer recorded that are compiled on the Nimbus CD …One of the real revelations on the album is how comfortably much of Caruso’s popular oeuvre adjusts to jazz improvisation. Santa Lucia,” with its tropical-island carnival atmosphere, features Lovano in a tenor, bass, and drum format reminiscent of Saxophone Colossus-era Sonny Rollins.

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All Music Guide

Matt Collar

On I’m All For You : The tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano works in many forms. He has had a trio with Bill Frisell and Mr. Motian for 20 years that refashions old jazz standards and originals into weird, hiccuping ad-libbed journeys; on recent albums for Blue Note, he has been dealing with large-ensemble be-bop as well as operatic themes arranged for unusual instrumentation and wordless vocals. But at bottom he’s a soulful, note caressing, tradition loving tenor player, and the music on ‘‘I’m All for You’‘ (Blue Note, May 4) might come closest to his essence.

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The New York Times

Ben Ratliff

On Streams of Expression : Joe Lovano can always be relied upon to switch gears from one project to another, constantly exploring new music and fresh variations of older pieces. On Streams of Expression, he contributes the five-part “Streams of Expression Suite,” a three-part “Birth of the Cool Suite” (conducted by Gunther Schuller) that uses themes from Miles Davis’ 1948-1950 Nonet, and three briefer works. Lovano utilizes several groups along the way, and there are spots for the other horn players (including tenors George Garzone and Ralph Lalama, baritonist Gary Smulyan, and especially trumpeter Tim Hagans) to be heard. Lovano is in prime form, the Miles Davis melodies are expertly updated, and although none of the new individual themes were destined to be future standards, the playing by Lovano and his sidemen is consistently creative. Another highly recommended Joe Lovano outing.

All Music

Scott Yanow

Gruff-toned, melodically gifted and thoughtfully fluent, the saxophonist revelled in the creative freedom and intuitive support of a premier rhythm section.

London Financial Times

Mike Hobart

No matter the mood or the tempo, Lovano delivered the kind of play that made one forget his prodigious technique and instead fall under the spell of his continually unfolding story line.

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Los Angeles Times

Bill Kohlhaase

…a savior has been slowly materializing in the nineties—the astonishing tenor saxophonist and composer Joe Lovano.

The New Yorker

Whitney Balliett

A master of his Promethean craft, the tenor saxophonist strikes a balance between passion and intellect as he ventures from the touchstone of lyricism to the outer limits of free expression. . . he is surely one of the most exciting, a sublimely confident player with provocative musical ideas and the vigor to bring them crying forth.

Atlanta Journal

Steve Dollar

Lovano . . .fully justifies the growing view of him as an important, world-class jazz talent.

Los Angeles Times

Don Heckman

Move over Pavarotti, the greatest Italian tenor around today isn't Luciano, but Lovano.

The Village Voice

Will Friedwald

On first look, the idea Joe Lovano is presenting this week at the Village Vanguard seems no more than eclecticism, the order of the day. Mr. Lovano, the saxophonist, has four musicians behind him, including Idris Muhammad and Joey Baron, drummers of wildly different stripes. In the week’s first set, on Tuesday, the drummers — and the others — drifted in and out at the bandleader’s invitation. Sometimes the drummers played together, sometimes they switched off between choruses, sometimes one just watched and listened. The different palettes of the pieces could accommodate two clarinets and bass, or saxophone and drums alone, or all five players at once. But looking more closely, it is rare that a jazz bandleader at Mr. Lovano’s level lays himself open to such chance and playfulness.

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The New York Times

Ben Ratliff