Joe Lovano Trio Tapestry: Garden of Expression review – a jazz unit with total empathy

·2-min read

The Cleveland-raised saxophonist Joe Lovano comes from a jazz tradition that extols blowing a lot of notes, fast and loud. He grew up on his saxophonist father’s stories of what it felt like to jam with John Coltrane, but also in a Sicilian-American household that revered the operatic tenor legend Enrico Caruso – experiences that nurtured an appreciation of virtuosity and the subtleties of nuance and timbre. Now, after more than four jazz-star decades that have seen him considered one of Sonny Rollins’ heirs (and a collaborator with originals from Bill Frisell and Elvin Jones to Esperanza Spalding), Lovano’s Trio Tapestry explore delicate distillations of the musical resources that all three members have often individually set loose with warp-speed intensity.

Garden of Expression, Trio Tapestry’s second album, reconvenes Lovano with the brilliant pianist Marilyn Crispell (New York Times critic Jon Pareles described witnessing her fusions of classical virtuosity and free-jazz fearlessness as “like monitoring an active volcano”) and his fellow Clevelander Carmen Castaldi on percussion. The softly ecstatic Chapel Song finds Crispell shadowing Lovano’s exquisite tenor tone in coaxing and reciprocal piano murmurings over Castaldi’s mallet whispers, followed by an improvisation that’s a complete piece in itself; and the ways she buoys up the vaporous lines of the sax with harmonious ripples on West of the Moon seem to bypass all deliberation with reflexive empathy. The title track’s opening ascents and descents shift to stormy, pensive and then scamperingly free-jazzy variations, Dream on That teasingly suggests a hidden jazz tune in repeated, mutating fragments, while Zen Like is an increasingly melodic exercise in gong tones and minimal motifs. Garden of Expression is about the spaces between sounds as much as sounds themselves – but, as in meditation, they’re spaces that resonate with stories.

Also out this month

Former Avishai Cohen pianist Shai Maestro, a Jarrett-inspired artist with correspondingly sharp intuitions for hooks that evoke haunting songs, releases his best album yet with Human (ECM), a set of tender and tempestuous originals and one reworked standard that puts his group, with bassist Jorge Roeder, drummer Ofri Nehemya, and downtown New York trumpet original Philip Dizack in the jazz-polls driving seat. Berlin-based drummer Diego Pinera’s Odd Wisdom (ACT) is a quirkily creative contribution to global jazz with David Bowie/Maria Schneider saxist Donny McCaslin, guitarist Ben Monder and bassist Scott Colley, and New York-based saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock’s Dreamt Twice, Twice Dreamt (Intakt) shows just how creatively, colourfully – and even catchily – jazz, improv, and contemporary classical music can converse.