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Dennis Irwin: Gone Too Soon

When tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano speaks of Dennis Irwin, it’s soon apparent that their 35-year bond was, and is, about much more than the music they played. “Dennis and I came together from the first notes we ever played together until the last notes. We came together in a real beautiful way because we were coming from the same places.” In early November, Lovano completed a series of dates throughout Asia, New Zealand and Australia. Many of the places he and Irwin had traveled together, creating and recreating the chemistry they shared, often with guitarist John Scofield. They had met in 1973, brand new to the New York jazz community, and quickly became immersed in the music. Lovano played with Woody Herman, and Art Blakey drafted Irwin on bass for the Jazz Messengers. Later, Irwin would play in Lovano’s first quartet and on his first record as a leader, Tones, Shapes and Colors, released on Soul Note Records in 1985.

Away from the music, Lovano learned about Irwin’s eclectic thirst. “Dennis was a real studied cat about people. He loved Oriental art and cultures and thrived on it. When we traveled through the Middle East together he knew all things about Oriental carpets, and we actually were in Istanbul a few times and we bought Kilim carpets and Dennis had books on carpets and knew everything about the history of how these people grew. He was an amazing cat.”

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