2019 saw the debut release of Joe Lovano’s Tapestry, with pianist Marilyn Crispell and drummer Carmen Castaldi. An enticing album with moments of brilliance, to me it offered more than it actually succeeded in giving. The trio’s second release, however, “Garden of Expression” delivers one of the most deeply beautiful set of tunes ECM are likely to release this year.
The development of the trio on this recording is clear to hear. Lovano’s writing, and the trio’s performance is breathtaking. There’s an intense focus, with the music being tenderly melodic, harmonically open, rhythmically free and spiritually involving. The saxophonist encourages subtle and differentiated responses from his creative partners, culminating in a magically interwoven improvisational understanding.
The new album also benefits from the recording location, the details of the music optimally realised in Manfred Eicher’s production, made in the highly responsive acoustics of the Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI in Lugano. “Having given a full performance there we were very comfortable with the room. The tone there, and the sound and the feeling in that space, built to be a recital room, is amazing. We played forte and really felt it.” says Lovano. “We played at pianissimo volume, and you heard the music vibrating in the room. And that created a real spiritual delivery on each composition, as we allowed the music to unfold.”
My first impression of this album still feels relevant to me after several more in-depth listens. The overall feel of the trio’s music immediately reminded me of how I felt when listening to Lovano play in Paul Motian’s trios – especially the many recordings made as the Motian/Lovano/Frisell trio. The music has an ethereal, mindfully aware, cosmic feel to it, yet remains so organic and grounded. And on this latest recording, it really is like the spirit of Paul Motian is present. Interestingly, Lovano also draws parallels between the present trio and the music he made, over a period of 30 years, in Paul Motian’s trio with Bill Frisell. “We developed a way of playing and communicating. The pieces would change night after night, as Paul gave us permission to create the music within the music. That study, that conception, has provided a foundation in my own playing and writing up to the newest work with Trio Tapestry.”
The album unfolds in a natural, unhurried way. From the glorious opener, “Chapel Song”, through to the final chimes of “Zen Like”, I was totally immersed in the eight original Lovano tunes. Marilyn Crispell’s solos, counter melodies, and improvisational embellishments, along with an intrinsically intuitive sense of sound-colour, helps the character of the group unfold like a beautiful flower coming into bloom. The detailed responses and textural brushstrokes of Carmen Castaldi paint delicate watercolours, spacious, romantic and alluring. And Lovano himself captures the whole of the moon in one breathtaking moment of time after another. This is how a trio should be.
When Joe Lovano’s in this mood, there’s really nobody else on the planet to compare him with. Five decades plus of creativity and the saxophonist still produces music as inspiring and astonishingly beautiful as this… incredible.