Monday, September 24, 2007

Trio Fascination

The cd Trio Fascination by Joe Lovano is playing, and it's almost enough to make you think that the morning will yield a good day after all. Foolishness, because it's the only 8:30AM, and nothing says denial like someone typing rapidly as if they're trying to keep the psychic tax collector a least three paces behind him. Mornings are the best time for writing because the mind is sufficiently empty of presumptions, leaving one free to pursue strange ideas and expressions without having to parry with the dual vanities that one might be right or wrong in the attempt to say something new. But back to Lovano, whose command of tone and vocal simulacra on his saxophone makes you think that there are conversations about good and graceful matters among the birds in the trees. He never wanders far from the blues, does not get strident for the sake of some spurious avant gard credentials; it's the playing that matters, it's the playing and the steady, perfect stream of ideas that remain with you when the session is over. Dave Holland and Elvin Jones firm up this pianoless trio, with Jones, in particular, laying out an unreal orchestration of rhythms, beats, and quirky articulated pulses; he sustains a dialogue of percussion across his dread heads and cymbals, and offers a swift and swirling set of waves for the superlative Holland to ride with his bass work, carrying Lovano to the further reaches of melody. Lovano jabs, darts, smears and mashes his lines in peculiar and angular phrases over the swing of the up-tempo numbers, and comes off as subtle, supple colorist on the ballads. This is one intricate weave of improvisation, scratchy and abrasive that lightly touches on the edge of dissonance; something about Lovano's indirect approach to a melodic inversion reminds me of the full scale stretches of spontaneous composition by Wayne Shorter in the years he succeeded John Coltrane in the Miles Davis Quartet, in that he wasn't one to fill a solo with the exhaustion of every scale and key one was capable of. Shorter used space and silences, building his solos with a majesty that made them seem composed beforehand. Lovano, a shade less verbose than Shorter, shapes, and molds his flights as well, entering a solo stretch from every vantage except straight on. This is the sound of surprise.

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