Joe Lovano Us Five ‘Cross Culture’ (Blue Note) 4/5

Blue Note’s current longest serving artist delivers another heavyweight package of an album that demonstrates once more that Joe Lovano is certainly not resting on his laurels with all bar one piece being originals. His current group with whom he both records and tours, a rarity these days, includes bassist and leader in her own right Esperanza Spalding and fellow Blue Note musician and guitarist Lionel Lueke. A novel idea this time round has been to have two drummers performing together, a concept that was pioneered during the 1960s, and this adds a certain intensity to proceedings. The fast-paced ‘In a spin’ is a quite dysfunctional sounding composition that sounds like two horns (possibly overdubbed) playing with guitar while the freer number ‘Drum chant’ is devoid of any piano and Lovano alternates on soprano. Throughout the album there is a fine rapport between Lovano and Lueke with piano often featuring as a minimalist accompaniment. However, Joe Lovano is certainly not all hustle and bustle and his gentler side is demonstrate on the classic Ellington-Strayhorn ballad ‘Star-crossed lovers’ where the leader excels on tenor and this harks back to the terrific album he recorded back in the early 1990s with Michel Petrucciani. The album concludes with a heartfelt tribute to another collaborator, Paul Motion, on ‘P.M.’ A live recording of this group would make for an excellent follow up.

Tim Stenhouse

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