Joe Lovano: Powerhouse




Us Five (with Joe Lovano)


Folk Art (Blue Note 91528)

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Joe Lovano (tenor sax), James Weidman (piano), Esperanza Spalding (bass), Francisco Mela (drums, percussion),

Otis Brown, III (drums, percussion),


Composed by Joe Lovano


Recorded: New York, November 18-19, 2008


Rating: 93/100 (learn more)

You can hear how much Joe Lovano enjoys playing with his band "Us Five" on this loose, swinging track from his 21st Blue Note release Folk Art. "Powerhouse" is a medium-up tempo workout on Tranish-changes with a clever start-and-stop melody. Don't be fooled by the ensemble's name which implies an egalitarian cooperative. Lovano is clearly in charge here, and establishes the high-octane performance level from his unaccompanied opening phrase. But the Other Four on Us Five make their presence felt as well—this is a standout rhythm section by any measure. Ms. Spalding is a star on her own these days; right before this CD came out, she had a gig at the White House, where it was even harder to get a ticket than at Lovano's ensuing Village Vanguard stand. I am usually wary when bandleaders double up on membranophones. Having two drummers in the band is like inviting two samurai swordsmen to dinner on the same night—make sure your first aid kit is on hand. But this time it works, giving an extra kick to the proceedings. A pianist could easily lose out in this Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest combo, but Weidman combines power and grace in his keyboard stylings. If I were naming this band, I would get rid of Us Five, and take on the name of this track. It would fit nicely on the marquee: Joe Lovano's Powerhouse.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia


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