Sunday, February 19, 2017

Joe Lovano Quartet fills the room and our warm February souls at the Jazz Kitchen

Joe Lovano, looking like the chairman of the board.
Coming into the Jazz Kitchen on a beautiful unseasonably balmy Saturday evening to hear the Joe Lovano Quartet provided a layer of further relief.

The early set by the veteran saxophonist dispensed not only balm, however, but also a bracing sort of liniment that stung before it soothed. An older sax master, Sonny Rollins, offered a musical caution about global warning several years ago. But sometimes you just have to enjoy the late winter gift of 60-degree temperatures, set aside thoughts of planetary danger, and just take in the music.

Lovano's protean style and wealth of invention skirts the edge of glibness, but there's always enough in his solos and the unity he has nurtured in his bands over the years to keep the music fresh. With a short introductory cadenza as a kind of throat-clearing, Lovano and the band launched into some bluesy oratory with the leader's composition "Fort Worth."

Now, Fort Worth is a homespun Texas city that nurtures its cowboy heritage reasonably well, but I assume the title is applicable to what Lovano does because Fort Worth is the hometown of Ornette Coleman. The theme is down-home, casual about chord changes, and saturated in country blues, and thus is a durable tribute (you can hear it on at least a couple of Lovano CDs) to the apostle of free jazz.

Lovano's solo was cogent and vigorously focused, but his young pianist Lawrence Fields, besides being undermiked, was somewhat slow to roll out his ideas, then reluctant to release them.  His improvement in the course of the set was dramatic. By the third piece, "On This Day, Just Like Any Other," he was hitting his stride, moving things along smartly. He sounded both fully relaxed and generously motivated in the last two numbers, a Wayne Shorter tune and Tadd Dameron's "Hot House."

The set's second piece,"Our Daily Bread," gave the capacity crowd the first extended exposure to bassist Peter Slavov, vivaciously interactive with Larry Istreli's pistol-shot drumming. This band can fill in a broad canvas without seeming to turn aside to touch up an unrelated watercolor. In other words, it can  establish a ballad feel on a piece like this, work it up to a midtempo swinger and, with the leader as inspiration, turn a reflective mood into a more playful one, as Lovano did in his second solo. Yet it all hangs together, and declines to ride madly off in all directions, unlike Stephen Leacock's Lord Ronald.

The sixth tune, the aforementioned "Hot House," came off like something you might hear in a second set. The quartet was fully at home and reacting well to its enthusiastic reception. The conventional device of exchanges with the  drummer, delayed until this piece, was unusually high-profile and concise. A chorus or two with just Lovano and Istreli made an exciting interlude just before the quartet chimed in for the out-chorus.

We may all be living in a hot house with a sense of foreboding, but we might as well catch a little fun as the glaciers calve and the polar ice caps melt. The Joe Lovano Quartet is among the vehicles to carry us away from worry for a while.