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Quartets: Live at the Village Vanguard (1995)

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Christian McBride

Named Jazz Album of the Year by readers of Downbeat Magazine, this double CD features tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano during two appearances at the Village Vanguard recorded ten months apart. Other than the leader, the pair of quartets are completely different and they bring out two sides of Lovano. The earlier session features the leader in a stimulating piano-less quartet, matching wits and creativity with flügelhornist Tom Harrell. While the music is closer to Ornette Coleman than to Gerry Mulligan (to name two famous pianoless groups), Harrell's tone more closely resembles Chuck Mangione than Don Cherry although fortunately he is much more inventive. The four Lovano originals are adventurous and all of the musicians sound as if they are stretching themselves. The second disc showcases Lovano in a more conventional quartet. The repertoire (just one original this time) covers John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, and Gordon Jenkins and finds the tenorman displaying his roots in Sonny Rollins. The rhythm section on the later date (pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist Christian McBride, and drummer Lewis Nash) is excellent at accompanying (rather than challenging) Lovano. In both cases, Joe Lovano is heard in prime form, making this an easily recommended two-fer. ~ Scott Yanow