Jazz CD Reviews
Joe Lovano – Symphonica – with the WDR Big Band & Rundfunk Orchestra – Blue Note/EMI
Published on August 31, 2008
(Joe Lovano – tenor & soprano sax; Karolina Stassmayer – alto sax (tr. 4); Paul Shigihara, guitar (tr. 6); Frank Chaitenier, piano (tr. 1))
Joe Lovano is at the very top of sax players of today and has done very well in quartet and other small group settings. But he feels that the orchestral atmosphere is one of the most beautiful and magical settings in music and has been drawn to it in a number of past albums: Classic Ellington, Rush House, Celebrating Sinatra and Viva Caruso. This time around – his 20th album for Blue Note – it’s slightly different because for the first time all of the seven selections except one are original compositions by Lovano. The exception is Charles Mingus’ Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love. The music was recorded live in Cologne, Germany.
Michael Abene was the arranger and conductor of all the music here, and the recordings were made in the acoutiscally fine home hall of the Cologne Philharmonic Orchestra. I feel this is the best album of sax with orchestra since Stan Getz’s Focus. In fact, a few passages reminded me of that classic with the music of Eddie Sauter. The Mingus selection opens with a lovely woodwind section, into which the sax insinuates itself, later it carries on relaxed improvisation over bed of long-held notes from the WDR Big Band. Lovano’s instrument becomes an integral part of the arrangements – not just a solo sax over an accompanying background of strings. That’s the longest track here, at over 12 minutes, and at about the same length Lovano’s own more uptempo Alexander the Great has him trading solo stints with alto saxist Karolina Strassmaye and then entering into a swinging duet/battle of the saxes. The closing number is a luscious and dreamy ballad and Lovano’s solo reminded me of some of the best of Getz. This one is a winner from start to finish!
1. Emperor Jones
2. Eternal Joy
3. Duke Ellington’s Sound Of Love
4. Alexander The Great
5. His Dreams
6. The Dawn Of Time
7. I’m All For You
— John Henry