Bird Songs

Bird Songs Reviews

On Bird Songs :Charlie Parker’s music rethought and interpreted in fresh ways

Although he has recorded for Blue Note for 20 years, it is significant that saxophonist Joe Lovano’s recordings are now jointly credited to Us Five. Before putting together this exciting young band, Lovano was on a comfortable artistic plateau. The band of two drummers, bass and piano has received great acclaim and helped revitalize his music.

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BBC Music

John Eyles

On Bird Songs : On Bird Songs, the challenge facing saxophonist Joe Lovano—and it’s a formidable one—is to tastefully approach Charlie Parker’s iconic repertoire and his impeccably crafted alto saxophone playing as building blocks for previously unexplored possibilities. Bold strides are required, not timid tip-toeing, so the challenge is well suited to Lovano and Us Five, the group he began in 2008 with pianist James Weidman, bassist Esperanza Spalding and drummers Francisco Mela and Otis Brown III.

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Jazz Times

George Varga

On Bird Songs : The legacy of Charlie Parker is something that every jazz musician has to contend with. As a co-creator of bebop up at Minton’s with Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell and others, Parker has assured his legacy by the time he died at age 34 in 1956. He was more than just a landmark innovator, as Bird’s outsized playing and personality in a community known for great playing and colorful characters makes him legend.

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AOL Spinner

Tad Hendrickson

On Bird Songs : Sax giant Joe Lovano has blown next to a bevy of jazz greats, and been applauded as soloist and leader throughout his nearly 40-year career. While it might seem surprising that audiences had to wait until his 22nd album for a tribute to Charlie Parker, Bird Songs demonstrates, once again, that Lovano does things his own way, and that great things are worth waiting for.

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All About Jazz

Andrew J. Sammut

On Bird Songs : Given its occasional tendency to revel in its rich past, you could argue that jazz needs another album dedicated to one of its titans about as much as it needs another 19-hour documentary series. But leave it to restless tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano to take the idea of a tribute record and turn it on its head with this collection dedicated to Charlie Parker.

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Los Angeles Times

Chris Barton

On Bird Songs :Joe Lovano / Us Five, ‘Bird Songs’

Saxophonist Joe Lovano has tried on a lot of bands and formats since joining the Blue Note label 20 years ago — duos, trios, quartets, big bands, near-classical ensembles. But his current quintet, Us Five, may be his finest. The band — which features pianist James Weidman, bassist Esperanza Spalding, and drummers Otis Brown III and Francisco Mela — put out the spectacular “Folk Art’‘ in 2009, and now they serve up “Bird Songs,’‘ a collection inspired by the work of Charlie Parker. But this is no mere tribute album. Parker’s compositions are not played as he intended (speedily, with torrents of notes); Lovano upends them, infusing them with modern sensibilities. Mostly they are slowed down, which gives the musicians room to roam beneath the chords and rhythms. “Blues Collage,’‘ is a jazz mash-up: Lovano, Weidman, and Spalding each play a different Parker tune at the same time, intertwining the melodies into a new song altogether. Lovano says the idea for this project began when Us Five performed in Barbados and broke out a new arrangement of Parker’s “Barbados,’‘ one with a Caribbean vibe. The tune is full of enthusiasm, and its ethos — finding something new to say through something familiar — encapsulates why Lovano is now jazz royalty.

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Boston Globe

Steve Greenlee

On Bird Songs : For those who wonder, “Do we really need another interpretation of Charlie Parker’s music?” Yes, we do, and Bird Songs is it. Lovano’s big-hearted tenor and vast imagination make this record a must-have for Bird fans, Lovano fans and jazz fans alike. With his terrific group Us Five—which includes Esperanza Spalding on bass, James Weidman on piano and drummers Otis Brown III and Francisco Mela—this is the followup to the group’s highly regarded disc Folk Art from 2009. While that recording focused on Lovano originals, what we have on Bird Songs are 11 very personal reinterpretations of Parker tunes. For example, Lovano turns the up-tempo “Donna Lee” into a lush ballad with intricate, understated drum, piano and bass work providing a backdrop for Lovano’s love letters sent through his saxophone. “Moose The Mooche” becomes an a great experiment in messing with time and rhythm. And “Yardbird Suite” serves as another shimmering ballad that slides charmingly into a mid-tempo toe-tapper. Lovano’s saxophone playing is always a joy to hear, but this is a group that is developing into one of the best in the business. You can feel them listening to—and playing off—each other and enjoying the moment. The band will be launching this record with a weeklong engagement at the Village Vanguard Jan. 11–16, and an NPR Live At The Village Vanguard session to be broadcast on WBGO (Newark, N.J.) on Jan. 12. Both are must-witness events for the new year.


Frank Alkyer