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CD Review: Joe Lovano - Classic! Live at Newport

Classic! Live at Newport

Joe Lovano

Joe Lovano – Saxophone

Hank Jones – Piano

George Mraz – Bass

Lewis Nash – Drums

It took 11 years for saxophonist Joe Lovano’s superb live recording from the 51st Newport Jazz festival to be released. During these years, the world lost the ingenious pianist Hank Jones, who makes the resulting album Classic! Live at Newport all the more poignant.

The disc is the fourth documented collaboration between Lovano and Jones and is as intriguing as the others, yet unique in its unbridled energy and lively spontaneity. The quartet, that includes their frequent collaborator, bassist George Mraz, and the elegant and intuitive drummer, Lewis Nash, interpret three originals and three standards with fervor and brilliance. “Bird’s Eye View” has an earthy melody, serving as an anchor to Lovano’s passionate and intelligent improvisation. With a gritty and muscular tone and vibrato-filled sound, Lovano weaves delightfully intricate and inventive embellishments around the main theme. He also engages in a thrilling exchange of circular phrases with Nash’s suave, polyrhythmic busts. Jones lets loose an eloquent and graceful cascade of notes that are simultaneously understated and breathtakingly agile. Mraz takes his place in the spotlight with a captivating and lyrical solo that is novel, yet complementary to those of his bandmates.

In addition to the individual virtuosity of these master musicians, what marks this splendid album is the sublime and seamless flow of ideas among the members of the group. Trumpeter Thad Jones’ “Kids Are Pretty People” features Lovano’s emotive lines soaring over the simmering, blues-drenched rhythms. Jones’ shimmering chords emerge out of the band’s percolating beats and flow logically back into Lovano’s evocative saxophone soliloquy. All the while, the collective interplay forms a sophisticated harmonic network filled with fervor and vibrancy.

This splendid disc not only captures an exciting and stimulating concert, it also renders it impeccably and with vivid sound. Listening to it is certainly not a substitute for the actual attendance of this memorable event, but Classic! does allow for repeated enjoyment of the work of a quartet captured at the height of its creative power.

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