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THE IRISH TIMES: PLAYING LIKE A SINGER

April 23, 2018
THE-IRISH-TIMES-PLAYING-LIKE-A-SINGER

From The Irish Times

Joe Lovano: 'A lot of the music today is computer driven – a numbers racket'
By: Cormac Larkin

[…] "I grew up in a total Sicilian Italian-American family," he says proudly, "and Mario Lanza, Enrico Caruso, Louis Prima, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennet, there was always a lot of vocal music around me. My Mom, and my aunt Rose, all my family was into that whole lifestyle, and I was influenced by the way those singers sang. I think Caruso was the ultimate as far as that majestic quality of delivery. Then later, as I started developing in jazz, I read a book about Louis Armstrong, and he would carry Caruso 78 records on the road with him. If you listen to Louis Armstrong play a melody, you can hear that majestic delivery inspired by Caruso. It tied a lot of things together for me, when I was growing up, trying to play like a singer."

It's an approach to melody, a rare ability to 'sing' with his horn, that has made Lovano one of the most respected – and most imitated – saxophonists of the post-Coltrane era. In particular, his playing with legendary drummer Paul Motian's trio, which also included guitarist Bill Frisell, is suffused with a yearning, romantic quality that made the Motian trio one of the most influential groups of the last quarter century.

"We played like a little orchestra," he says of the bass-less trio that was a major part of his life from the early 1980s until the great drummer's death in 2011, "and my role was really to sing the piece of music we were playing. That taught me a lot, and it has stayed with me".

"Sometimes your instrument can overpower you," he continues, "and having that approach really gave me a lot of different ideas. Now it's not so much playing the saxophone as trying to play the music, you know, and to follow the sound in the music."

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