Jazz Faculty: Joe Lovano

Hailed by the New York Times as “one of the greatest musicians in jazz history,” Grammy Award winning saxophone giant Joe Lovano has distinguished himself for some three decades as a prescient and path finding force in the arena of creative music. The secret to Lovano’s success is his fearless ability to push the conceptual and thematic choices he has made in his quest to find new modes of artistic expression within the jazz idiom.

Since 2009, Lovano’s main vehicle for his exploration has been Us Five a dynamic young band—which features drummers Otis Brown III and Francisco Mela, bassist Esperanza Spalding, and pianist James Weidman The band’s most recent release the Grammy Nominated - Bird Songs— Lovano’s 22nd album for Blue Note Records (the release of which marked his 20th year on the label) is an exploration of the Charlie Parker songbook that breaks the mold of Bird tribute records. “I didn’t approach this as a tribute record,” states Joe Lovano, dispelling right off the bat any preconception that his latest album is a mere retread. In 2011 the JJA (Jazz Journalist’s Association) named Bird Songs Recording of the the Year and named Us Five Small Ensemble of the Year. It was also the Downbeat Editor’s Pick for Album of the Year. Us Five’s debut recording—2009’s Folk Art—was a wide-ranging set of Lovano’s original compositions that resulted in Us Five being awarded Best Small Ensemble of the Year at the 2010 JJA Jazz Awards and winning the Best Jazz Group of the Year category in the 2010 DownBeat Critics Poll. Lovano completed a double-triple of awards by also winning the JJA’s Musician and Tenor Saxophonist of the Year, and DownBeat’s Jazz Artist and Tenor Saxophonist of the Year.