Joe Lovano Us Five: Folk Art (2009)

In his 57th year, the saxophonist, composer and bandleader Joe Lovano is something of a jazz absolute: consistent in quality but traversing schools, styles and formats in a way that argues the music has somewhere to go without accommodating pop. His 2009 Blue Note release, Folk Art, recorded with a new group he calls Us Five, only reinforces his reputation as the consummate jazzman, an explorer and historian in equal doses. Folk Art is centered in postbop but plays in and around the avant-garde, and it features elements that, on paper, might seem gimmicky, but in Lovano’s hands foster thrilling music.
A cross-generational quintet, Us Five features two drummers, Otis Brown II and Francisco Mela, and Lovano uses them to ramp up the intensity as well as multiply the options for exchange. (“It’s as if there are 20 different bands,” he told JT’s Geoffrey Himes.) Then there’s Lovano’s arsenal of texturally brazen woodwind oddities, including the taragato and aulochrome, and the fact that Folk Art is his first album featuring his original compositions exclusively. Those tunes, alternately burning (“Powerhouse”), loping (“Folk Art”), tender (“Song for Judi”) and askew (the Ornette homage “Ettenro”), brilliantly underscore the group’s sensibility—one of dynamic interaction and aesthetic versatility. E.H.
1. Powerhouse 4:09
2. Folk Art 10:05
3. Wild Beauty 7:17
4. Us Five 8:09
5. Song For Judi 5:46
6. Drum Song 8:30
7. Dibango 6:44
8. Page 4 5:52
9. Ettenro 8:12
Joe Lovano - saxes
Esperanza Spalding - bass
James Weidman - piano
Francisco Mela - drums
Otis Brown III - drums
Folk Art
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