Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Lovano, Joe

Lovano, Joe, tenor saxophone; b. Cleveland, Ohio, 29 December 29, 1952. His father Tony "Big T" Lovano (b. September 21, 1925), was a barber by day and an accomplished tenor saxophonist at night. He met and played alongside John Coltrane at a jam session when Coltrane was passing through Cleveland on a tour with a Blues Band on alto saxophone, either in the late 1940's or early 1950's.  At this time the Sr. Lovano was prominent on the jazz scene in Cleveland and his quartet would open for such stars as Stan Getz and Flip Phillips. He heard Charlie Parker and Lester Young play often when they would come through town and frequently spoke of these experiences which had a big impact on young Joe's development. He also took Joe as a teenager to hear Sonny Stitt, James Moody, Lou Donaldson, Rahsahn Roland Kirk and Gene Ammons.

Joe started on alto at six years of age, and his first tenor was a King Super 20, when he was 11 years old. He played in some Motown-styled bands growing up, as well as studying with his dad and playing with his father's peers in organ groups as well as rhythms sections with piano, bass and drums.

Joe graduated Euclid High School in 1971, then went to Berklee where his classmates included John Scofield, Bill Frisell, George Garzone, Billy Pierce, James Williams, Billy Drewes, and Jamey Haddad. After leaving in 1973 he began freelancing, first working with Jeff Sturgis' Big Band (touring the States backing up Tom Jones) and then joining Lonnie Smith's quartet based in Detroit between 1974 and 1976. Joe's first time playing and recording in New York City was with Lonnie for Groove Merchant Records. This recording ("Afrodesia") also featured George Benson, Ron Carter, Ben Riley and fellow-Clevelander Jamey Haddad on drums.  During 1975, Joe played with Brother Jack McDuff in Cleveland at the Smiling Dog Saloon, and joined his band shortly after for a six-month tour of the US which included the Club Baron in Harlem, alongside tenorists David Young and Bill Cody, altoist Willie Smith, (not the famous one but a close friend of his father's from Cleveland), Eric Johnson on guitar, and Joe Dukes on drums.

After moving to New York City in May 1976, Joe joined the Woody Herman Band in August, during Woody's 40th Anniversary Year, which culminated in a concert in November at Carnegie Hall which was recorded by RCA. Joe played with Woody alongside Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Jimmy Giuffre and Flip Phillips. While on tour with Woody Herman's Thundering Herd, he began living on 23rd St. in N.Y. in 1978. After leaving Woody's band in 1979, Joe began free-lancing in New York and joined the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra in 1980. Joe worked with Mel throughout the 1980's, touring internationally as well as playing the steady Monday nights at the famed Village Vanguard. Playing with such guest soloists as Zoot Sims and Dizzy Gillespie, Joe was a member through 1991. Mel Lewis participated in Joe's Quartet gigs as a Leader as well, and recording on Joe's first date as a leader.

He met Judi Silverman, a contemporary vocalist and modern dancer, in 1980 and they began a long and fruitful collaboration. They married in 1984, and after several years, Silverman combined their names to create Silvano. During the early 1980's Joe and Judi combined their creative efforts with a series of concerts held at the Washington Square Church in Greenwich Village. These concerts also included such notable New York musicians as Bill Frisell, Billy Drewes, Kenny Werner, Scott Lee, Joey Baron, Ed Schuller as well as dancers such as Fay Simpson. Judi Silvano can be heard on several recordings under Lovano's leadership, including Worlds and Universal Language, the  critically acclaimed Rush Hour, with orchestrations by Gunther Schuller (Blue Note), and Celebrating Sinatra (Blue Note).

Joe joined the Paul Motian band in 1981 with Bill Frisell and they continue to work as a trio to the present. Throughout the 1980's and into the 1990's Joe has been a member of quite a few ensembles under the leadership of Peter Erskine, Carla Bley, Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra, Tom Harrell, Bob Brookmeyer and Elvin Jones. He has toured Europe as a leader and guest soloist since the mid-1980's.

As a leader Joe has created several groups to explore the music he has written and recorded. His Universal Language ensemble has toured the States and Europe bringing the dynamics of brass, woodwinds, voice and rhythms section. Joe has received Grammy nominations for his albums Tenor Legacy, Rush Hour, Quartets: Live at the Village Vanguard, and Celebrating Sinatra and for his solo performances steadily since the early 1990s. Down Beat's Annual Critics Poll in 1995 awarded Joe Lovano the Triple Crown: Jazz Musician of the Year, Jazz Album of the Year (Rush Hour)  and Tenor Saxophone player of the Year. The next year, 1996, Joe won Down Beat's Readers Poll for Jazz Musician of the Year and Jazz Album of the Year (Quartets: Live at the Village Vanguard). He and Gunther Schuller collaborated on a film score for "Face Down," a Showtime production starring Joe Mantegna. It aired in April 1997.

On June 24, 1997 Joe played as a leader at Carnegie Hall featuring his ensemble, with orchestrations by Manny Albam featuring a String quartet, woodwind sextet, voice and rhythm section of the Celebrating Sinatra material. Manny conducted this concert for the JVC Festival. A European tour followed and concerts in many prestigious concert halls throughout the United States, including Orchestra Hall in Chicago. 1998 and 1999 resulted in some very intimate music in the form of a series of duet performances in collaboration with Gonzalo Rubalcaba on piano with Lovano playing drums, percussion and several woodwinds. 1998 also brought an Honorary Doctorate bestowed on Joe Lovano by The Berklee School of Music.

Since he was about 15 Joe has played his father's Selmer Balanced Action tenor from the late 40s (his father switched to a Mark VI at that time). He also owns a Chu Berry model Conn tenor from the 20s and in 1997 started to play a LA Sax Straight tenor and alto which he is helping to develop. He has started to play the custom-made tenor saxophone by Borgani. Joe also plays a Selmer soprano saxophone Super Action Series 3, Selmer clarinet, Selmer and LaBlanc alto clarinets, Buffet bass clarinet, Gemeinhardt flute with curved headjoint and several wood flutes. Plus various drums, cymbals and percussion from around the world. He has used a custom made wooden mouthpiece for Tenor and Soprano saxophones, since the mid 1980's, made by Francois Louis.

Joe has taught at William Patterson College, The New School and New York University as well as doing frequent international and domestic Workshops and Master Classes.

Selected recordings:
Tones, Shapes and Colors (1985); Hometown Sessions (1986); Solid Steps (1986); Village Rhythm (1988); Ten Tales (1989); Worlds: Live in Amiens (1989); Landmarks (1990); From the Soul (1991); Sounds of Joy (1991); Universal Language (1992); Tenor Legacy (1993); Rush Hour (1994); Quartets (1995); Sinatra tribute (1997); Flying Colors (1998); Trio Fascination (1999); Viva Caruso (2002)
As sideperson:
One Time Out (1987)

- 2003 Down Critics Poll Winner Tenor Player of the Year
- 2002 NY Times Top Ten Jazz Albums - "Viva Caruso"
- 2001 Down Beat Reader's Poll Winner for Jazz Artist of the Year; Tenor Saxophonist of the Year; Jazz Album of the Year for "52nd Street Themes" ("Flights Of Fancy" placed #3)
- 2001 Down Beat Critic's Poll Winner for Musician of the Year
- 2001 Jazz Journalists Association Critic's Choice Awards Winner for "Musician of the Year" and "Jazz Album of the Year" (52nd St. Themes); Nominated for "Small Ensemble of the Year" (Nonet); "Tenor Saxophonist of the Year";
- 2001 Recipient of "The Gary Burton Chair for Jazz Performance" by Berklee College of Music
- 2000 Grammy Winner for Best Large Ensemble for 52nd Street Themes
- 2000 Down Beat Readers & Critics Poll Winner Tenor Player of the Year
- 2000 Jazz Journalists Association Critic's Choice Awards Nominee for "Musician of the Year" and Winner "Tenor Saxophonist of the Year"
- 1999 Jazz Times Readers Poll Album of the Year Trio Fascination: Edition One
- 1999 Bell Atlantic Jazz Awards, winner Best Tenor Saxophonist and nominee for Musician of the Year
- 1998 New York Jazz Awards nominee for Musician Of The Year; Improviser of the Year; Best Tenor Saxophonist
- 1998 Jazz Journalists Association Critics Choice Awards nominee for Musician of the Year; Best Improviser of the Year; Best Artist/Band In Performance; Best Combo of 1997 (Joe Lovano Sextet); Best Tenor Sax Player of the Year
- 1998 Awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Berklee College of Music
- 1997 Grammy Nominee Best Instrumental Performance for Celebrating Sinatra
- 1997 Jazz Journalists Association Critics Choice Awards Winner "Album of the Year" for Quartets Live At The Vanguard and nominee for Musician of the Year; Best Instrumentalist; Best Working Band
(Joe Lovano Quartet);
- 1996 Grammy Nominee Best Jazz Small Group Album and Jazz Solo for Quartets Live at the Village Vanguard
- "Jazz Artist of the Year" 1995 & 1996 Down Beat Critics Poll & Readers Poll
- "Tenor Player of the Year" 1995 Down Beat Readers Poll
- "Album of the Year" Rush Hour 1995 Down Beat Critics & Readers Poll
- 1995 Grammy Nominee Best Large Ensemble for Rush Hour
- 1995 Jazz Report Magazine (Canada)"International Artist of the Year"
- 1994 Grammy Nominee Best Jazz Small Group Album for Tenor Legacy

Jazz IRC interview, Lovano, Joe + Martino, Pat, September 5, 1995
jazz central interview 3/6/97
Lovano Blindfold Test, DB 9/97, 70
Andrews, Jon, Down Beat Dec. 1996
Joe Lovano: Artist Transcriptions Saxophone. Hal Leonard, 1995; melodies and solos.
R. Valentino, Un Re Della Sintesi, Musica Jazz, May 1998
"Lovano the Great", by Whitney Balliet, New Yorker Mag.
Dr. Billy Taylor, profile on CBS Sunday Morning show...
Downbeat cover story, "Lovano making History", Jan. 1998


Contact: manager Michael Davenport

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