Oregon Music News: Oregon’s all-genre music magazine since 2009

Joe Lovano
Joe Lovano

Lo and Sco and more new releases from ECM

By BILL ROYSTON // Lo is Joe Lovano and Sco is John Scofield. See what the founder of the Portland Jazz Festival has to say.

Charles Lloyd first met the late Tomasz Stanko backstage at the 2007 Portland Jazz Festival where they were sharing a double bill. Stanko had just exited the stage when Charles grabbed him in semi-darkness, spun him around and confidentially proclaimed, "I covet your rhythm section!"

Covet? Stanko was stunned. The Polish trumpet master's English was fair, but rudimentary. He turned to me and asked "Covet?" Before I could try to answer, someone whispered at length to Stanko in Polish but the translation must have been a bit distorted.  Wide eyed, Stanko looked at Charles, and said, "Two of them are married." And walked away.

That rhythm section is now the Marcin Wasilewski Trio with Wasilewski (piano), Slawomir Kurkiewicz (bass), and Michael Miskiewicz (drums). The Trio was associated with Stanko in Warsaw from the late nineties until Stanko moved to New York in 2008 before passing in 2014. During that time, the Trio brilliantly supported Stanko's trumpet on a series of his most acclaimed recordings, including "Soul of Things," "Suspended Night," and "Lontano" among others.

On their own, Wasilewski, Kurkiewicz & Miskiewicz have released several excellent albums that really swing like "Faithful," "January," and an absolutely killer double "Live" release, while maintaining a rigorous international touring schedule (pre-Covid). Recently, they collaborated with European saxophonist Joakim Milder on the very impressive "Spark of Things," and providing superb support as a quintet with Norwegians Trygve Seim (sax) and Jacob Young (guitar) on "Forever Young," one of the best contemporary jazz releases of 2019.

Now, the Marcin Wasilewski Trio has gone-for-broke with "Arctic Riffs," collaborating with America's premiere sax man Joe Lovano. It is certainly the best set yet by the Wasilewski Trio on ECM Records from Stanko through Lovano. Confident, mature, and rhythmically aggressive, the Wasilewski Trio deserves to be coveted.

Joe Lovano, along with good friend and guitar legend John Scofield--two legitimate, modern jazz headliners--have each signed new recording agreements wth ECM Records with summer releases. In another time, this wouldn't be a big deal, but in an era where terms like "Music Business" and "Recording Industry" are simply contradictory, these signings are remarkable! ECM wins big by signing two American jazz luminaries, balancing their European slanted roster (while also replacing past stalwarts Charles Lloyd and Dave Holland, who have each moved on).

Lo and Sco score huge with ECM's vast international distribution along with pristine production values and Artistic Freedom. The artists are assured that their music will be released and won't need to escape!

Lovano jumped in first about eighteen months ago with "Trio Tapestries," a tone poem collaboration with ECM avant-garde pianist Marilyn Crispell. The result is contemplative and subdued. Vintage ECM sound, but for some, a diluted Lovano. Joe has ventured into more subtle improvisations like this before (duo with pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, "Flying Colors;" two musical partnerships with the late maestro Gunther Schuller, "Rush Hour"and "Expressions;" three treasured classics with the Paul Motion/Joe Lovano/Bill Frisell trio (on ECM). However, Lovano is first and foremost a 'jazz guy,' living the life with grinding, extended improvisational solos, he has thrived in various trios, quartets, quintets, and even a dynamite nonet (all on Blue Note Records).

Immediately after "Trio Tapestries," Lovano relocated to a more comfortable, straightahead environment, co-leading an Italian quintet on "Roma" with another great trumpeter, Enrico Rava. Lovano has returned to his element. The music is robust, joyous, and adventurous, and was inarguably another one of the top jazz albums of 2019.

Lovano accepted second billing with Enrico Rava/Joe Lovano quintet out of respect to the elder Rava. Now, in 2020, Lovano has again accepted lesser standing, but with much younger comrades, on "Arctic Riffs" by Marcin Wasilewski Trio and Joe Lovano. Although cumbersome, the billing is certainly correct. This is definitely a Marcin Wasilewski Trio recording with Lo more than ably sitting in.

This is the best that Lovano has sounded in several years. His tone is full and rich; improvisations are impeccable, intense yet playful. Lo hasn't sounded so joyous since a memorable blowing session with yet another trumpet player, Dave Douglas, at Monterey Jazz Festival in 2016... Perhaps it's because of the Rolls Royce Rhythm Section that he's presently riding!

John Scofield has been a preeminent jazz guitar improviser for several decades now. Like Lovano, Sco was in residence at Blue Note for many years, but also had extended stints with Verve and the late, great Grammavision Records in the 80's. Before that, also like Lovano, Scofield studied at Berkelee School of Music where he was mentored by bassist extraordinaire Steve Swallow.

Scofield's ECM debut is "Swallow Tales," a musical reunion with his former teacher after nearly forty years. No fear here that the ECM Sound will compromise Sco's rough-edged grooves. Au Contraire! Scofield's tone is as strong as ever, and several extended improvisations really soar.

The spotlight, however, is focused on Swallow's sensitive, but steady, electric bass lines along with intimate compositions for an electric duo. This is periodically punctuated by the delicate drumming of frequent Sco-mate, Bill Stewart.

It's the rich rapport between Scofield and Swallow, student and teacher, that makes this a memorable recording. All in all, a classic case of less-is-more!




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