3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 15 May 2011
The notion of a quintet that includes two drummers is suggestive of unbrindled bombast but Joe Lovano's group "Us Five" offers a more oblique approach with the music sometimes heading in the direction of more the abstract as personified by Wayne Shorter's current quintet. This is the first of the current two discs cut by the band and offers a more outside approach to the music than the follow-up "Bird Songs." There are moments of brilliance on this record and the tracks "Dibango" and "Etterno" stand out. The title track is a great number too, sharing some of the drunken wonkiness of the finest Thelonious Monk although in live performances this tune has mutated into something of a tour de force for the group that is not quite fulfilled here. This is one of those records that get better with each hearing and with the more "way out" Lovano dominating this record than is the case on the measured disc with the fabulous Hank Jones, I think it will tend to appeal to those he prefer his edgier work.
Lovano is an interesting composer and sufficiently engaged enough to avoid pointless head-solo-head runs over the changes. "Folk Art" is demonstrative of a mature artist at the top of his game. More than on the most recent record, the group's pianist takes a far bigger role on this CD and whilst the references to McCoy Tyner in the other review are well-observed, I felt that there was a probing element within his solos which reminded me of another fine pianist, Paul Bley. However, as good as this record is, I feel that the later "Bird Songs" is the one to go for if you don't want to plump for both of them. Recorded a few years later, the group has really forged an identity on the later disc and the interaction between the two drummers is so fully resolved that the combination of two percussionists seems entirely natural. I feel that both records are cracking statements of the current vibrancy of the music in the contemporary jazz scene but if push comes to a shove, I am more fascinated the radical re-working of Charlie Parker's familiar themes on "Bird songs" than "Folk Art" which effectively does what is says on the tin, even if it is worth the price alone for the off-centre funkiness of the track "Dibango.". Either way, Us Five is one of the saxophone meastro's most eccentric and rewarding groups. Recommended.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Lovano's 21st Blue Note album was recorded in November 2008 shortly after forming the group US Five. The CD, also available on double vinyl with the additional track 'Jazz Free', is a spectrum of Lovano's style and output. Anyone familiar with his output will appreciate his ability to switch from bop to free jazz along with everything in between.
The personel on this disc are: Lovano(ts,as,cl,tara,aulo,pc), James Weidman(p), Esperanza Spalding(b), Otis Brown 111(d), and Francisco Mela(d,pc).
The variation in styles and tempo are linked by a series of folk forms. The opening 'Powerhouse' is driven by Lovano combining elements reminiscent of Coltrane and Coleman with reference to Parker. Immensely muscular in its intensity and phrasing alternating between vigour and melancholy. Lovano's two drums and piano format shows the strength of the drumming with the freedom of expression of Weider's piano and strong bass lines from Spalding. 'Folk Art' has Lovano switching from alto to tenor sax built on winding melodies against a firm rhythmical background.
Lovano is a master of ballads and produces 'Song For Judi' and'Wild Beauty' in a slow style that Coltrane would surely have admired. On 'Drum Song', Lovano plays a taragato, a Hungarian instrument I am not familiar with, that sounds like a clarinet in upper register with a hard reed. It is a foot-stomping number with firm forms and an overall happy sound.
'Dibango' has Lovano on his double soprano sax (aulochrome) later to be heard on his next album 'Bird Songs'. His accompaniment is piano. 'Ettenro', (Ornette in reverse), not surprisingly finds Lovano and the band playing very much in Coleman's style with controlled, seemingly improvised lines, supported by a strong Esperanzo Spalding bass solo that would not be out of place if Charlie Haden was playing it.
This is a very together band playing very contemporary music in their own distinctive way. This is a step in a new direction for Lovano. He is not one for lying down and playing in a safe, conservative way. Wonderful music.