Real 90s Jazz
Michael B. Richman | Portland, Maine USA | 07/13/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It is so unfortunate that most people associate jazz in the 1990s with that watered-down happy jazz junk. Of course, there are the throngs of young lions who are playing traditional jazz, but they aren't adding a shred of anything new and interesting to this art form. For an even smaller number of jazz afficianodos, there are some great avant-garde players that have emerged in the 90s who are expanding jazz's limits, including Charles Gayle and David S. Ware, but their music is not for everyone. Joe Lovano, on the other hand, is one of the few musicians who is playing traditional jazz, yet adding something new and expansive to the medium. "Quartets - Live at the Village Vanguard" captures this perfectly. When you mention the Village Vanguard, you think of great albums by John Coltrane, Bill Evans and Joe Henderson, and now the torch is passed to Lovano and he keeps the flame burning bright. Lovano fills 2CDs with outstanding modern jazz, including five of his own compositions, and classic tunes by Monk, Coltrane, and Mingus among others. Of the two quartets on the CD (disc one is a pianoless quartet featuring Tom Harrell, and disc two features a traditional quartet with Mulgrew Miller on piano) I have to give the nod to the one with Tom Harrell. The music is more dynamic in this pianoless group, and when Lovano is put in challenging situations he usually comes up with very creative ideas. Which leads me to the only downside of this release, and the reason I only give it four stars. Lovano is constantly reinvigorating his music with new album concepts and lineup changes, which give his CDs diversity and their own uniqueness. However "Quartets," particularly disc 2, covers some old ground and at times is reminiscent of earlier material like "From The Soul." This does not mean you should forgo this album by any means, its just not quite as cutting edge as newer releases "Trio Fascination" and "Friendly Fire." It is however, a great live album in the jazz tradition that should appeal to most everyone."