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Joe Lovano: Joyous Encounter

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Joe Lovano

Joyous Encounter opens with Vernon Duke’s “Autumn in New York,” introduced by a harmonic synopsis from Hank Jones’ solo piano and then by a breathy statement of the melody from Joe Lovano’s tenor sax. Paul Motian’s light brushwork and shimmering cymbals soon join in, and so does George Mraz’s pause-punctuated bass phrases. It’s September of 2004, autumn in New York, and the quartet has picked up right where they left off 15 months earlier-recording a sumptuous ballad at Manhattan’s Avatar Studios.

The quartet’s previous album, also released under Lovano’s name, is the all-ballads session I’m All for You. It proves that tunes can be played very slow and very soft and still have as much rhythmic vitality and harmonic invention as the most boisterous bop numbers. Lovano, a big man with a fat tone on the saxophone, doesn’t reduce his sound so much as he compresses it, squeezing the same number of ideas into smaller, quieter spaces. He took his cue from Jones, the most self-effacing of musicians. The pianist’s comfortable passages never call attention to themselves on I’m All for You, but if you listen closely you’ll notice that he’s radically reworking the harmony.

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