CD review: Joe Lovano Trio Tapestry – Garden of Expression 2021: Video, CD cover, Photo

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Joe Lovano.

Joe Lovano’s debut, Trio Tapestry, was one of 2019’s most talked-about releases. Their concept is taken to the next level on Garden of Expression. Lovano is a saxophonist who plays with exceptional sensitivity.

Carmen Castaldi’s space-conscious approach to drumming further refines his improvisational understanding. The trio is also a wonderful context for Marilyn Crispell’s solos and counter melodies. The album was recorded at the Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI and produced by Manfred Eicher.

The Cleveland-raised saxophonist Joe Lovano comes from a jazz tradition that extols blowing a lot of notes, fast and loud. He grew up on his saxophonist father’s stories of what it felt like to jam with John Coltrane, but also in a Sicilian-American household that revered the operatic tenor legend Enrico Caruso – experiences that nurtured an appreciation of virtuosity and the subtleties of nuance and timbre. Now, after more than four jazz-star decades that have seen him considered one of Sonny Rollins’ heirs (and a collaborator with originals from Bill Frisell and Elvin Jones to Esperanza Spalding), Lovano’s Trio Tapestry explore delicate distillations of the musical resources that all three members have often individually set loose with warp-speed intensity.

Garden of Expression, Trio Tapestry’s second album, reconvenes Lovano with the brilliant pianist Marilyn Crispell (New York Times critic Jon Pareles described witnessing her fusions of classical virtuosity and free-jazz fearlessness as “like monitoring an active volcano”) and his fellow Clevelander Carmen Castaldi on percussion. The softly ecstatic Chapel Song finds Crispell shadowing Lovano’s exquisite tenor tone in coaxing and reciprocal piano murmurings over Castaldi’s mallet whispers, followed by an improvisation that’s a complete piece in itself; and the ways she buoys up the vaporous lines of the sax with harmonious ripples on West of the Moon seem to bypass all deliberation with reflexive empathy. The title track’s opening ascents and descents shift to stormy, pensive and then scamperingly free-jazzy variations, Dream on That teasingly suggests a hidden jazz tune in repeated, mutating fragments, while Zen Like is an increasingly melodic exercise in gong tones and minimal motifs. Garden of Expression is about the spaces between sounds as much as sounds themselves – but, as in meditation, they’re spaces that resonate with stories.

Saxophonist Joe Lovano’s sideman appearances for ECM label stretch back more than thirty years. For the most part, the American delivered the label’s musical compass with the same gruff tone and rhythmic edge that marked his own-name recordings for Blue Note.

Here though, the saxophonist delves deeper into the resonant lyricism and understated rhythms that marked 2019’s Trio Tapestry, his ECM debut as a leader. This follow-up release, a set of eight Lovano originals, was recorded later the same year. As before, Lovano clothes his floaty tenor sax phrases with the ethereal tonalities of Nordic jazz. Pianist Marilyn Crispell and drummer Carmen Castaldi weave ambient textures into a diffuse pulse.

Opening track “Chapel Song” sets the tone with Crispell’s sparse piano rounding out Lovano’s wispy introductory phrase. Castaldi enters with a sequence of pings, the theme is contemplative and spiritual in tone, and the mood is sustained to the end of the piece. The haunting “Night Creatures” comes next, introduced by mellow piano chords. Two minutes in, the key changes and the playing grows more intense, reaches a gentle high and then arcs back from whence it came. Then follows the ebb-and-flow moods of “West of the Moon” with Lovano displaying greater edge.

Although saxophone is the dominant voice, the collective spirit is high. Crispell closely follows Lovano’s trains of thought with a wide array of voicings and melodic fragments of her own invention and holds one’s attention when taking the lead. With no steady bass, Castaldi can tug the pulse this way and that, decorate phrases and rumble and roar when required.

“Garden of Expression”, the album’s ambitious title track, hangs contrasting moods on a repeated theme and “Dream on That” is the nearest thing to an up-tempo jaunt; Crispell introduces the dance-like theme, Lovano hints at Ornette Coleman at the end. Elsewhere, “Treasured Moments” and “The Sacred Chant” are suitably serene and the gong-adorned “Zen Like” is exactly that.

  1. Chapel Song (6:05)
  2. Night Creatures (6:46)
  3. West of the Moon (5:47)
  4. Garden of Expression (7:28)
  5. Treasured Moments (5:04)
  6. Sacred Chant (3:14)
  7. Dream on That (3:07)
  8. Zen Like (10:42)

Joe Lovano: Tenor, Soprano Saxophone, Tarogato, Gongs
Marilyn Crispell: Piano
Carmen Castaldi: Drums

Delicate distillations of all three ... Trio Tapestry (from left: Joe Lovano, Marilyn Crispell, Carmen Castaldi).Album Garden of Expression, Joe Lovano | Qobuz: download and streaming in  high quality

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