Recorded on December 29, 1991 at Skyline Studio, New York City, NY
Joe Lovano heads a lineup with pianist Michel Petrucciani, bassist Dave Holland, and late drummer Ed Blackwell. It's hard-edged, explosive playing all around, with Blackwell laying down his patented bombs while Petrucciani and Holland converge behind Lovano's dynamic solos.
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
The evolution of Joe Lovano into a major "new" voice on saxophone, at 39 no less, is a heartening one to anyone troubled by the mantle of greatness currently being thrust upon the recent green crop of musical youth. Lovano, pride of Cleveland, OH, brings a fresh, mature voice to the table. He couples an ear for invention and adventure with a thorough grounding in bebop tenor wisdom, or as the Village Voice aptly described him, "a bop player with a predilection for free jazz."
Joe Lovano comes by the tenor sax almost as a birthright His father, "BigT Tony Lovano, was a big-toned tenor legend, in the tradition of Gene Ammons and Ike Quebec, in and around Cleveland and environs. "I was two, three years old, crawling around the house completely taken with my dad's tone," Joe has often remarked, tracing the origins of his current proclivities directly to his home. From his dad Lovano brought an assured, rich sense of timbre to the tenor saxophone. Current events find him opening his bag to two of the tenor's smaller cousins.
In the case of this rewarding new release we'll need to amend that tenor sax label since Lovano proves equally adept on both alto and soprano saxes. His alto is particularly compelling on Coltrane's "Central Park West" - and what a thoughtful idea, taking Trane on alto, a particularly deft decision when one considers Joe's vintage and his obvious use of the master as a sonic point of departure. One of the keener elements the listener can derive from Lovano's sound on From The Soul, besides the fact that he always plays it from the heart, is that he is not slavish in his devotion to the mystique of Coltrane's influence; this is again another sign of Joe's positive evolution. Add Joe's adroit soprano work on Monk's typically puckish line "Work" (which also features a deft Petrucciani piano solo) and we have a triple-threat saxman toiling here. Oh sure, you'll hear traces of Coltrane and tidbits of Joe Henderson's obvious influence here and there but they're merely touchstones for what Joe has evolved into a distinctive saxophonic voice. You can hear it in the gentle cry he elicits following Dave Holland's beautiful bass break on "Portrait Of Jenny," that raw edge he brings to his conception that has become a Lovano trademark of sorts.
Joe also maintains a good measure of the ham fat tenor tradition he inherited from his father. "BigT" toiled for years in organ combos on the Cleveland club circuit, a fact lovingly chronicled on Joe's self-produced Hometown Sessions of a few years back, which finds Lovano pere and fils working with organ legend Eddie Baccus. Lovano stills plays a ripe old tenor his dad laid on him from the 40s, breathing a singular life into the ageless axe. Many were the times when an Elvin Jones or a Cannonball Adderley would hit Cleveland, likely at some place like the late Smiling Dog Saloon and ask the inevitable 'where's BigT?' The son's honey-mustard approach embellishes the horn with a rollicking sense of the changes and an ability to work well in a variety of band contexts that has made him such a valued partner and sideman.
Joe's Cleveland upbringing gave him a great measure of confidence in working with organists Jack McDuff, and Lonnie Smith, the gig that proved to be Joe's ticket to New York. Ever malleable, Lovano has found a welcome home in his share of big bands as well. These have ranged from one of Woody Herman's Herds, where he remained for three years, making Herman's 40th Anniversary concert at Carnegie Hall in '76, and Mel Lewis' band, (now called the Vanguard Orchestra) where he still makes Monday nights hits when he's in New York, to Charlie Haden's liberating ensemble, with whom he recorded the 1991 Grammy nominated album Dream Keeper. His experiences have also included the bent sonic landscapes of Paul Motian's trio, John Scofield's bracing guitar music, and his own wind ensemble, which also includes Judi Silverman's vocals. Lovano's experiences have been considerable and varied. One would also do well to note Joe's seeming predilection towards rhythm section leaders (and theirs towards him), considering all the above save Herman.
From the clarion call of Lovano's opening tenor statement on "Evolution" it's obvious that this is a different atmosphere than Joe's 1991 Blue Note debut, Landmarks. Though leavened with wonderful standards, From The Soul does at times give sway to Lovano's outward bound sensibilities. "Evolution;' due no doubt to the presence of drum master Ed Blackwell, has an almost Ornette-like feel. "Portrait Of Jenny" is one of two standards, this time given a new twist by Blackwells gentle mallet work. The other standard is that tenor tradition that Dexter Gordon used to introduce thusiy:" There comes a time in the life of every tenor player when he must play 'Body And Soul"- this is Lovano's time and he does the chestnut proud.
"Modern Man" is a drum and alto sax duet, with an inevitable comparison at hand. It's as if Lovano is irresistibly drawn back to the alto (where his sax, odyssey started about 34 years ago) when working with Blackwell perhaps partly due to the compelling specter of Ornette Coleman. It is this type of underlying, subtle gift which makes this such a pungent addition to Lovano's catalogue. "Fort Worth" is a trio setting with Holland and Blackwell, the former very understated and tasteful in his support of what is a keen parry between Joe and Ed. Throughout Joe's love and reverence for Blackwell is one of this session's hallmarks.
"Left Behind'" is another duet setting, tender in its sense of melancholia, this time between the leader and Petrucciani. This session takes Michel a bit left of his usual milieu. He is understated, supportive and quite a compliment to this music, evidencing the proper, supportive sideman's attitude in seizing his role here.
Rounding out the cast is one of the music's first rate bassists. Dave Holland, who plays the bass in the full. thick manner of the masters, never reverting to the cello mania that so many post-LaFaro bassists seem so eager to embrace. Holland brings great measures of bottom to this music, always elastic, ever malleable and so right for the session. Listen for his work on the album closer, Lovano's waltz "His Dreams."
From The Soul represents a significant new step in the continuing growth of a considerable saxman.
-Willard Jenkins (National Jazz Service Organization)