Thursday, September 11, 2008
Throughout history, jazz musicians, seeking the widest palette to perform with, have longed to record with a full symphony orchestra. Interestingly, critics tend to pan such recordings; witness Wes Montgomery’s work on A&M and Charlie Parker’s With Strings. The reason is while orchestras give the greatest variety of timbres, they work from the printed page and thus cannot engage the soloist in dialogue.
This sort of recording is no small undertaking, but for his 20th release on Blue Note, saxophonist Joe Lovano was given the WDR Radio Orchestra as a backing group. Recorded live, the result is a lush stroll through the garden of Lovano’s compositions. Arranger Michael Abene has scored the orchestra to allow Lovano the greatest latitude of improvisation achievable, but for the traditionalist it’s obvious Lovano is handcuffed in the same way his predecessors were: Straight-laced accompaniment that is unyielding to the soloist’s spur-of-the-moment inflections. But, the abundance of plush sounds makes this a good introduction to one of today’s top musicians.