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June 2001

Joe Lovano
Flights of Fancy: Trio Fascination, Edition Two
Blue Note Records

Flights of Fancy, edition two of saxophonist Joe Lovano's trio series, presents a quiet program boasting four different trio settings for his reeds: bass and drums with Cameron Brown and Idris Muhammad; percussion and drums with Billy Drewes and Joey Baron; harmonica and piano with Toots Thielemans and Kenny Werner; and bass and trumpet with Mark Dresser and Dave Douglas.

There are times when even the most skilled bass, drum and horn trio can reach a malaise because there is no chordal instrument to provide a foundation. To keep things spirited, Lovano sought, and achieves, a fine sense of balance on Flights of Fancy: the trios are alternated on nearly every track, and each has its own distinct personality. Lovano and Thielemans achieve a nice level of communication, with the saxophonist leading the dialogue "On April," a variation of "I'll Remember April," and Lovano and Douglas give off shades of Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry on their collaborations, particularly "Amsterdam."

"Blue Mist," a textured piece for brushed drums, bells, tambourine and gong, is one of three tunes on which Lovano enacts a delicate hand-off from one trio to the next on the same piece. On "Blue Mist" Lovano seamlessly grafts the Brown-Muhammad band onto the latter half of the song, whereas on "Giant Steps" the transition from the Thielemans-Werner band to Brown and Muhammad is handled more like a two-chapter suite.

The lone quibbles with Flights of Fancy are that Muhammad suffers a bit from a flat mix that fails to really capture his commanding presence; Dresser's bass endures somewhat the same treatment, particularly on the Lovano original "206."

Originally published in June 2001
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