Joe LOVANO was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1952, and began playing alto sax as a child.
A prophetic early family photo is of the infant Joe cradled in his mother's arms along with a sax. His father, tenor saxophonist Tony "Big T" LOVANO, schooled Joe not only in the basics but in dynamics and interpretation, and regularly exposed him to jazz artists traveling through such as Sonny STITT, James MOODY, Dizzy GILLESPIE, Lester YOUNG, and Rasaahn Roland KIRK.
While still a teenager he immersed himself in the jam-session culture of Cleveland where organ trios where common and Texas tenor throw-downs a rite of passage. In high school he began to absorb the free jazz experiments of Ornette COLEMAN, John COLTRANE and Jimmy GIUFFRE, and was greatly affected by the interaction which occurred between the musicians.
Upon graduation from high school he attended the famed Berklee School of Music in Boston where he met and began playing with such future collaborators as John SCOFIELD, Bill FRISELL and Kenny WERNER. He had been searching for a way to incorporate the fire and spirituality of late-period John COLTRANE into more traditional settings. At Berklee he discovered modal harmony: "My training was all be-bop, and suddenly there were these open forms with deceptive resolutions. That turned me on, the combination of that sound and what I came in there with. I knew what I wanted to work on after that". In 1994 Joe was given the prestigious "Distinguished Alumni Award" from Berklee.
Joe's first professional job after Berklee was, not surprisingly given his roots, with organist Lonnie SMITH, which brought him to New York for his recording debut, followed by a stint with Brother Jack McDUFF. This segued into a three year tour with the Woody HERMAN Thundering Herd from 1976 to 1979, culminating in "The 40th Anniversary Concert" at Carnegie Hall, which also featured Stan GETZ, Zoot SIMS, Flip PHILLIPS and Al COHN.
After leaving the Herman Herd, Joe settled in New York City where he continues to live. His early years there were filled with jam sessions and rent gigs, but eventually he joined the Mel LEWIS Orchestra for its regular Monday night concert al the Village Vanguard, playing from 1980 to 1992 and recording six albums with the Orchestra. In addition he worked with Elvin JONES, Carla BLEY, Lee KONITZ, Charlie HADEN and Bob BROOKMEYER, among others, eventually joining the modern drummer Paul MOTIAN's band in 1981.
His first high-profile gig that brought him national attention was with guitarist John SCOFIELD's Quartet, with whom he recorded and toured for three years. Of his playing SCOFIELD says, "He's very sonically aware - he thinks about the effect different instruments and different personalities will have. He was perfect for what I was doing - his sense of swing and his tone reminded me of the older guys, in a really positive way". He gained further exposure and renown, particularly in Europe, through his work in the trailblazing Paul MOTIAN Trio, which also former Berklee classmate, guitarist Bill FRISELL.
Beginning in 1991 with his first engagement as a leader (at the Village Vanguard), Joe has experimented with different ensembles which reflect his searching and dynamic personality. As much a composer as player, Joe is constantly seeking new ways to express his muse. Out of his thinking, wrinting and playing he has come to work, as a leader, with two basic ensembles - a piano-less Quartet and the Universal Language Sextet. The sextet (which name derives from its Blue Note debut album Universal Language) features the soprano voice of Judi SILVANO, whose wordless vocals mesh beautifully in both ensemble and improvised passages with Joe, as well as trumpeter Tim HAGANS and pianist Kenny WERNER. The critical response to the Sextet's album and live concerts has been extraordinary, with Downbeat giving it a 5 star review which was considered so exceptional it was reprinted in their recent 60th Anniversary Issue.
The Quartet in person features either Tom HARRELL or Tim HAGANS on trumpet, along with Anthony COX on bass and Billy HART on drums. A recent live recording from the Village Vanguard was in the Fall of 1995 on Blue Note in a special double Live at the Village Vanguard CD including a more recent recording from the same club with a quartet including Mulgrew MILLER, Christian McBRIDE and Lewis NASH. Joe's 1994 release, Tenor Legacy (Blue Note, 27014) which features tenor saxophonist Joshuah REDMAN, received wide critical acclaim, culminating in a Grammy nomination for "Best Jazz Small Group Recording". Predictably unpredictable, Joe's albums, Rush Hour (Blue Note 29629), released in early 1995, reflects his restless searching and desire to expand his musical palette. It features his tenor saxophone with voice, string and woodwind ensembles arranged and conducted by the legendary Gunther SCHULLER, in compositions by Charles MINGUS, Ornette COLEMAN, Thelonious MONK, Duke ELLINGTON, Gunther SCHULLER and Joe LOVANO. As CD Review's "Disc of the Month", stated, "Music doesn't get any better than this. This disc is a wonder".
With both the jazz audience and the critics increasingly recognizing Joe LOVANO's unique voice as a tenor player, leader, and composer, Joe and his various albums have over the past several years placed consistently in the Top 10 in Down Beat, Musician, and JazzTimes, culminating in his being given the top tenor award in this year's JazzTimes Readers Poll, while Tenor Legacy (Blue Note 27014) was selected Record of the Year in Italy's Musica Jazz.
He also recently released a tribute album to Frank SINATRA.
A recent feature in Downbeat characterized Joe as "The man whom we believe to be at the top of the heap of modern tenor saxophonists".
Recent quartet albums with pianist Hank JONES.
Biography courtesy of Saudades Tourneen.
Joe LOVANO has been associated with several Belgian musicians, such as Michel HERR (p), Bert JORIS (tp), Dré PALLEMAERTS (drs) (CD "Solid Steps" on the Jazz Club label). He was guest soloist with ACT Big Band on the CD "Extremes" (Igloo Igl 044), and on the "Rhythm Sphere" CD (Igloo Igl 117) of Eric LEGNINI (p), etc...
JOE LOVANO - SELECTED DISCOGRAPHY
As a leader:
Landmarks (Blue Note)
Village Rhythm (SoulNote)
Tones, Shapes & Colors (SoulNote)
Solid Steps (Jazz Club), with Belgian musicians Bert JORIS, Michel HERR, Dré PALLEMAERTS and Dutch bassist Hein VAN DE GEYN
Hometown Sessions (JSL/Nimbus)
Worlds: Joe Lovano Wind Ensemble (Label Bleu)
Lovano/Romano: Ten Tales (Owl)
Joe Lovano plays Sinatra
With Paul Motian:
It Should've Happened a Long Time Ago (ECM)
Story of Maryam (SoulNote)
Monk in Motian (JMT)
One Time Out (SoulNote)
Motian In Broadway, Vol. I & II (JMT)
Trio with Bill Frisell
With The Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra:
Make a Smile (Finesse)
Live at Montreux (Pausa)
20 Years at the Village Vanguard (Atlantic)
Soft Lights, Hot Music (Music Masters)
With John Scofield:
Time on my Hands (Blue Note)
With Tom Harrell:
Sail Away (Contemporary)
With Peter Erskine:
With Henri Texier:
Paris Batignoles (Label Bleu)
Transatlantic Quartet - Izlaz (Label Bleu)
Transatlantic & Abercrombie - Colonel Skopje (Label Bleu)
With Woody Herman:
Live in Poland (European Release)
40th Anniversary in Carnegie Hall (RCA)
Chick, Donald, Walter & Woodrow (Century)
Woody & Flip Philips - Together Again (Century)
With Lonnie Smith:
Afro-Desia (Groove Merchant)
Lonnie Smith and George Benson (Europa)
When the Night is Right (Groove Merchant)
Keep on Lovin' (Groove Merchant)
For more info, and an updated discography, visit Joe's web site (see link above)