Music

Joe Lovano Quartet: Classic! Live at Newport

With Classic! Live at Newport, several generations of jazz luminaries shine on the historic Newport Jazz Festival stage.


Joe Lovano Quartet

Classic! Live at Newport

Label: Blue Note
US Release Date: 2016-07-29
UK Release Date: 2016-07-29
Amazon
iTunes

When pianist Hank Jones died in 2010 at the age of 91, his passing marked the end of an impressive familial dynasty that included stints with some of the biggest names in jazz history. Between Hank and his brothers Elvin (drums) and Thad (trumpet), the Jones brothers served as sidemen for some of the most important music recorded in the mid-20th century, be it Elvin’s storied time as a member of John Coltrane’s seminal quartet, Thad’s stint with the Count Basie Orchestra, or Hank’s association with a seemingly endless list of musicians ranging from Cannonball Adderley (the era-defining Somethin’ Else) to Marilyn Monroe (that’s him backing her slurred rendition of “Happy Birthday, Mr. President”).

In this, Jones, the oldest of the three, served as a vital link to a quickly vanishing past. Still recording and performing right up until his death, his mere presence on an album or performance could instill it with a level of greatness and reverence virtually unmatched by any living musician.

Over the years, tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano has become nearly as ubiquitous. Always assembling stellar bands, Lovano himself functions as something of a link between the old and new guard of jazz. Despite having begun his career in the 1970s, his approach has long been more traditionalist than modernist, honoring the music’s heritage while ensuring its continued existence for future generations. One of the most recent incarnations of his group featured bassist Esperanza Spaulding, who some have hailed as one of the purveyors of the future of jazz.

Recorded at the 2005 Newport Jazz Festival, Classic! Live at Newport brings together not only Lovano and Jones, but also a pair of highly-regarded sidemen in drummer Lewis Nash and bassist George Mraz for a rollicking set of straight-ahead jazz played by some of the best in the business. From the opening moments of “Big Ben” through the final reverberating strains of “Six and Four”, Classic! Live at Newport offers a number of tour de force performances. Front and center throughout is the horn of Lovano, its throaty, phlegmatic growl cutting through, the notes melding into an unarticulated blur of melodicism and studied musicality.

On “Bird’s Eye View”, he unleashes a series of cascading, frenetic runs that call to mind prime Coltrane. In this, he shows his approach to be one that falls squarely between both the harp and post-bop players and free jazz screamers. It’s one of many impressive solos performed with a deceptive ease and lyrical fluidity. There seems to be something about the Newport Jazz Festival that brings out the best in performers. Half a century prior, saxophonist Paul Gonsalves delivered a mind-blowing 27-chorus solo in front of an awe-struck crowd. Immortalized on Ellington at Newport, this is but one of many classic and career-defining performances brought out by the storied festival.

And while there are no 27-chorus solos, all four take impressive turns throughout the six-song program. On “Don’t Ever Leave Me”, Mraz deploys a thrillingly fleet-fingered solo with a higher level of harmonic sophistication that finds him pushing the tune well beyond its basic parameters. Teasing classical melodicism, he makes use of the full range of the instrument, leaving an indelible imprint on the performance.

Despite this, there are moments during which the quartet sound as though they are still feeling one another out. With Nash filling in for Paul Motian, the group had a fairly short amount of time to shore up their interplay. Yet all four performers were at the top of their respective games, and by “Kids Are Pretty People” they’ve locked in, with Nash swinging hard and a sense of ebullience permeating the performance.

Classic! Live at Newport offers little in the way of new or unexpected turns from any of these performers. Instead it serves as a fine reminder of the strengths of each and a fitting showcase for the link between jazz’s old and new guard, Lovano falling squarely in the middle. Fans of straight-ahead jazz and thrilling live performances will find much to like here.

7

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.

Music

Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".

Music

PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor
Film

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.

Music

Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.

Music

Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.

Music

Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.

Music

Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.

Music

Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.