Joe Lovano performs at Newport Jazz.
Jazz audiences mostly know Joe Lovano as a top-drawer, burly-toned tenor saxophonist. He bears a massive catalog of recordings, which he seemingly appends multiple times a year over the last 20-plus years. But at Berklee College of Music, his alma mater and employer, he's just one of many talented teachers on staff. It's where he met talent like Cuban virtuoso drummer Francisco Mela and star ascendant bassist Esperanza Spalding, with whom he formed a sort of faculty trio some years ago. With the subsequent addition of James Weidman on piano and Otis Brown III on drums, that trio has mutated into a colorful, loose two-drummer quintet called UsFive.
The group's new album, issued earlier this year, is called Folk Art, and features, for the first time ever on record, only Lovano originals. Turns out those unconventional tunes leave plenty of room for adventurous, open-ended playing from the world-beating saxophonist, who clearly takes the star turn amid liberal smatterings of lightly-abstracted percussion and piano. It's as if the unusual instrumentation has freed Lovano to indulge his wilder (but always lyrical) instincts, something we'll expect to see live from the main Fort Adams stage at Newport
"Song for Judi"
Joe Lovano, woodwinds
James Weidman, piano
Esperanza Spalding, bass
Francisco Mela, drums
Otis Brown III, drums