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Joe Lovano’s latest release, his 22nd album, showcases one of his original influences from childhood, Charlie “Bird” Parker. Parker was obviously known as a bebop pioneer, and has been an influence to just about every jazz musician, regardless of their chosen instrument, since his time. On this record, Lovano attempts to place some of Parker’s most well known compositions in a new setting. Each tune is given a different arrangement than the original recordings done by Bird’s groups in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Many jazz fans have been hearing these tunes for decades, and the decision to do an album of nothing but Charlie Parker compositions may seem like a mistake to some. However, Lovano’s arrangements add a renewed interest to these tunes. This remains true even despite the fact that each tune on this record is among the most popular of Parker’s compositions. Lovano has even taken fragments of extrapolated melodies to create new compositions, as on the track “Birdyard”. Listeners are sure not to grow tired of the typical head-solo-head form of most bebop jazz. The sidemen on this recording provide a modern rhythm section feel, which also helps place the music in a more unique territory. It is refreshing not to hear a young rhythm section attempt to sound like a 1950’s house band. Overall, this record is a refreshing take on well known bebop standards placed in a modern context. In our current era of change in jazz, an era which has given rise to criticism from certain established musicians, it is interesting to note that at least one legend in the jazz world seems to approve the new direction of the music.
Joe Lovano/Us Five - Bird Songs (Blue Note Records 2011)
Joe Lovano (tenor sax), James Weidman (piano), Esperanza Spalding (bass), Otis Brown III (drums), Francisco Mela (also drums)