Joe Lovano : Garden of Expression Review
Joe Lovano is back with his Trio Tapestry on ECM records. The same line up joins Lovano as on the trio’s 2019 self-titled debut of Marilyn Crispell, piano, and Carmen Castaldi, drums. The new album is titled Garden of Expression, which is eight Lovano compositions, and continues the musical journey started in their first album. Produced by Manfred Eicher, the trio recorded at Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI in Lugano.
Trio Tapestry’s music has a long history of friendships and collaboration, and when the trio first played together, they performed all improvised music. Lovano states, “Our very first concert was without any themes or songs. It was about exploring how we might play together – and the music opened up in such a beautiful way. I sent a tape of this to Manfred Eicher, who was very encouraging.” The music begins with “chapel Song” that sets the tone for the project’s “peaceful, non-aggressive delivery.” The room sound can be heard on the recording and plays a part in the music and ensembles approach. “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. 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,” says Lovano.
The music has a distinct improvised chamber music sound now that Lovano is composing themes for the trio to play and build their improvisations upon. The title track has a unified feel and a flow led directly by the theme, and the trio uses it as the seeds to grow their group improvisations. The trio does have chemistry; I lean more to the sounds of Wayne Shorter’s quartet with pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Brian Blade when it comes to improvised ensemble playing. With Trio Tapestry’s music, the lack of groove and mellow approach is excellent for a few selections, but more focus on time playing and building to a distinct feel is better for this listener’s ears, as in Shorter’s improvisational ensemble.
Garden of Expression is constructed with a gentle touch. Lovano’s saxophone playing does have a broad spectrum, from in your face (in a few moments) to caress your emotional sensibilities (most of the time). However, the lack of a deep groove is something this project is missing, and really the whole point of jazz. The harmonic colors and essence between the sympathetic accompaniment from all three are stellar. The music travels well with melodic and harmonic patterns, but they need to coexist with a pocket the listener can feel for most of the improvisation. Without a feel or defined pocket monopolizing the affair, the music’s woolly and atmospheric vibe is not that engaging. As Duke made clear, it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that “pocket.”
Joe Lovano & Marilyn Crispell & Carmen Castaldi
Garden of Expression
January 29, 2021