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Joe Lovano and Us Five, Washington, D.C., 9/12/12

At Blues Alley, quintet is in sync, but could use a little more breathing room

Joe Lovano

Joe Lovano has a long history of playing with great drummers, gigging early in his career with Mel Lewis and enjoying perhaps his most fruitful musical partnership with Paul Motian, and he is even a drummer himself, but with his quintet Us Five he has upped the ante. In Us Five, Lovano has built himself his dream rhythm section with four creative and hard-driving musicians whose combined energy is clearly pushing Lovano to some of his most inspired playing in years.

In a performance at Washington, D.C.’s Blues Alley, Lovano and group played songs mostly culled from their two albums, Folk Art (2009) and Bird Songs (2010). Lovano’s tone was a bit wobbly in the opening song “Us Five,” but by the second song the band had clicked together as a result of impressive interplay between drummers Francisco Mela and Otis Brown III and bassist Esperanza Spalding. The three have developed a strong sense of each other’s sensibilities during the years they have played together, and along with the subtle and intelligent playing of pianist James Weidman they have become one strong rhythm section.

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