Joyous Encounters
REVIEW by Willard Manus
Joe Lovano's latest Blue Note CD, JOYOUS ENCOUNTERS, is aptly named, if only because sax player Lovano teams up with pianist Hank Jones to produce some of the most spirited and harmonious jazz heard in a long time. Lovano was born in 1952, Jones, 1918; but you'd never know there was an age difference, so fresh and vigorous is their playing, so close and compatible are their ideas and execution.

Joined by George Mraz on bass, Paul Motian on drums, Lovano leads the way on the eleven cuts, with Jones not only keeping pace but inspiring him with his assured, lyrical keyboard work. Lovano, alternating between tenor sax and "curved soprano" (his description), is a master at going from linear phrases to chords and back, never more so than on JOYOUS ENCOUNTERS. The pleasure he takes in being able to relax into the music and explore its spaces to his heart's content is positively palpable.

Kicking off with a soulful reinterpretation of "Autumn in New York," Lovano and Jones then move into tunes by Thad Jones, Thelonius Monk and John Coltrane, not to speak of works of their own composition. Each of their numbers is a gem, a splendid work of art.

More good news: Lovano has just recorded a new album for Blue Note: an exploration (in part) of Miles Davis' Birth of the Cool, orchestrated by the legendary Gunther Schuller, with whom Lovano last collaborated on the 1995 modern classic, Rush Hour.