STLJN Saturday Video Showcase: Joe Lovano and Us Five


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This week, let's take a look at some videos of saxophonist Joe Lovano and Us Five, who will be performing Wednesday, April 30 through Saturday, May 3 at Jazz at the Bistro.

Born and raised in Cleveland and educated at Berklee, the 61-year-old Lovano first gained professional experience performing with organists “Brother" Jack McDuff and Dr. Lonnie Smith. He then went on to play with the big bands of Woody Herman and Mel Lewis, and then worked with guitarist John Scofield and drummer Paul Motian, two musical relationships that would continue well beyond Lovano's first album as a leader in 1985.

Since lauching his solo career, Lovano has led bands ranging from a quartet to a nonet, and also has been part of some high-profile collaborations, notably the Saxophone Summit group with Dave Liebman, the late Michael Brecker, and, after Brecker's untimely death in 2007, Ravi Coltrane.

Us Five was formed in 2009, with the group's most obvious distinction being the presence of two trap drummers, Otis Brown and Francisco Mela, whose contrasting approaches yield plenty of rhythmic density while still generally avoiding clutter. Pianist James Weidman also has been part of all three Us Five albums, while bassist Esperanza Spalding, who played on the group's first two recordings, these days has mostly ceded the chair to Peter Slavov as her own career has taken off.

Today's first video shows the current US Five lineup in 2011 playing “Barbados," from their album Bird Songs, live in the Studios of Seattle NPR affiliate KPLU.

After the jump, there are two songs recorded in July, 2009 during the band's gig for the Heinecken Jazzaldia at Plaza de la Trinidad in San Sebastian, Spain. First up is “Folk Art," which is split into two parts, followed by “Us Five," both from their first, self-titled album, and both with Spalding on bass.

Next up are two songs, “Viva Caruso" and “Spiritual," recorded in 2011 at Jazzwoche Burghausen in Germany, again with the current lineup of musicians.

Last but not least, check out an interview Lovano did with video reporter Lee Pace in which the saxophonist talks about Us Five and Bird Songs.

You can see the rest of today's videos after the jump...

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This story appears courtesy of St. Louis Jazz Notes by Dean Minderman.
Copyright © 2021. All rights reserved.

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