After six nominations, tenor saxman Joe Lovano finally won a Grammy this year for his Blue Note album 52nd Street Themes. A Cleveland native, Lovano enrolled at Berklee College of Music in 1971, and there he made some contacts with musicians who have remained in his life to this day. In 1976, he moved to New York, and soon afterward became a member of Woody Herman's band, with whom he would play until 1979. By the '90s, the hard work that Lovano had put into developing his art began to pay off. He's been fortunate to have a record company executive, Blue Note's Bruce Lundvall, back him to the hilt. Lovano can do pretty much whatever he wants to for that label; he's his own producer. Lovano's made a series of Blue Note albums, ranging from a Sinatra tribute to Rush Hour, which features the 20th-century, classically influenced writing of Gunther Schuller. All of these CDs have been distinctive and well received, too. On his latest CD, Flights of Fancy: Trio Fascination, Edition 2, Lovano plays in four different trios. In order to present listeners with a variety of tone colors, Lovano plays not only tenor, but soprano, C melody, and straight alto sax, as well as alto and bass clarinet, trap drums, and percussion. Moreover, three selections ("Blue Mist," "Bougainvillea," and "On Giant Steps") are performed twice, by different trios. So this is about as varied a trio CD as you could hope to get. Most of the tunes are by Lovano, and they're based on chord progressions, but some of his pieces, such as "Amsterdam," have unusual structures. The arrangements are distinct, too: "Off and Running," for example, has no set tempo, and "On April" is done contrapuntally. Lovano's work, as usual, is excellent; it's a pleasure to hear him take chances and land on his feet so consistently.
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