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June 1998

Joe Lovano/Gonzalo Rubalcaba
Flying Colors
Blue Note Records

The art of the duo, dual reflection, appears to be gradually replacing the navel gazing solo impressionism that was such a vogue step in the wake of Keith Jarrett's inward visionings of the '70s. Many artists are finding the unfettered engagement of a sole collaborator to be a neat way of playing largely unencumbered while still engaging one of the basic elements of jazz-interaction between instruments. Such is the case with this issue from one of the tenor sax titans of our time and the exciting piano stylings of a man equally at home with montuno and Monk.

These seemingly disparate artists-Cubano pianist meets Italian tenor from Cleveland-interact at the common ground of shared creativity. Produced by Lovano, boredom is cleverly averted via the producer's varied palette of instruments. Known primarily for his opulent tenor sax tone, Lovano employs his straight tenor sax, soprano sax, alto clarinet and gongs. You'll also do a double take when he sits down at the traps midway through his own tune, "Boss Town." In so doing, Lovano keeps the color line flexible, using Rubalcaba's keyboard as a sort of point of departure. There are moments of great tenderness and forays into slightly woolly climes as well. The choice of material is rich and deep, from Irving Berlin to Ornette Coleman.

Originally published in June 1998
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