JAZZIZ Backstage Pass: Joe Lovano

Tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano may be best known for his long-running tenure at Blue Note Records, the label he’s called home since 1991. But within the same span, he’s also been a vital presence on the German label ECM, founded by renowned producer Manfred Eicher. It’s a relationship that stems back to 1981, when Lovano first appeared on drummer Paul Motian’s album Psalm. In the years since, the saxophonist would perform on albums by ECM luminaries like John Abercrombie, Steve Kuhn and Marc Johnson, but to this point, he has never recorded an ECM album under his own name.

That will all change on January 25, when ECM releases Trio Tapestry, a new album featuring Lovano in the leader role alongside pianist Marilyn Crispell and drummer Carmen Castaldi. The music is informed by Lovano’s passion for the 12-tone technique, a method of composing that involves using a series of all 12 musical tones to avoid the predominance of a single key.  But further influences include Lovano’s love for world music and jazz. Lovano harbors an enduring love of gongs — he says they allow him to create parallel key centers while improvising — and his new album features them prominently. But listeners will also get to hear him play a new instrument, the double-reed Hungarian tarogato, which he recently added to his arsenal.

We spoke to Lovano via Skype about the release of the new album and its significance in his discography. We also discuss some of his biggest musical influences, including the free-jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman and Third Stream composer Gunther Schuller. We end, fittingly, with an appreciation for his beloved gongs. Listen via the player below. 

Theme music: “Folk Song” by Emmet Cohen

Feature photo: Marilyn Crispell, Joe Lovano and Carmen Castaldi (Courtesy ECM Records)

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