The saxophone has been called the "instrument of jazz innovation" and with good reason: five of the music's most noted trailblazers--Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman--were saxophonists. There are many who think that Joe Lovano, with his incantatory blend of unbridled spontaneity and be-bop roots, is the jazz tenor innovator of our day; his new album, featuring Joshua Redman, goes to further that belief.
This vibrant, vital recording is no let-'em-rip blowing date. In fact, there's not even a blues--the classic vehicle for a two-horn mock conflagration--on the most satisfying program. Instead, the intriguing fare includes Monk's rarely heard "Introspection," Booker Little's driving "Rounder's Mood," and five Lovano originals, by turns cooking and exploratory.
Lovano and Redman complement each other. They have similar sounds--each going with fat, puffy bottom tones and knife-thin top tones--and distinct solo approaches. Lovano is purposefully rambunctious, playing a sultry, swinging phrase one moment, a wild, free-jazz bent burst the next. Redman, in like manner, is cohesive then startling, though he's more of a traditionalist than his partner.
Several instances where the pair trade phrases creates a wealth of excitement. A crack rhythm team--Mulgrew Miller, piano; Christian McBride, bass; Lewis Nash, drums; Don Alias, congas--bolsters the tenorman and fleshes out this dandy session.
New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four (excellent).