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Trio Tapestry Reviews

On Trio Tapestry : ​It is entirely characteristic of Joe Lovano, who parted ways with Blue Note Records in 2016 after releasing 25 leader or co-led albums in 26 years, that he would use his ECM debut, ‘Trio Tapestry,’ as an opportunity to introduce a brand-new ensemble.

Joined by pianist Marilyn Crispell and drummer Carmen Castaldi, veterans who embody what Lovano calls “the spirit of now” with an attitude of concision, the leader—playing tenor saxophone, tárogató and gongs—presents a meditative, gradually ascendant recital of 11 “episodes.” The musicians navigate an abstract “stream of expression” that Lovano traces to his sixth Blue Note album, ‘Rush Hour,’ a collaboration with Gunther Schuller that topped the Jazz Album category in the 1995 DownBeat Critics Poll and the 1995 DownBeat Readers Poll.

“I’ve been studying and trying to get deep into these concepts since before ‘Rush Hour,’” Lovano continued. “But it started to crystallize when I began writing for this session with Marilyn, whose playing comes from a similar place, and with Carmen, whose approach is so transparent and beautiful—his bass drum and one cymbal are [lead] instruments in themselves. Each piece has a tapestry of interwoven themes and harmonies and rhythmic ideas that make it work.”

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Ted Panken

On Trio Tapestry : Although he acquired a “tenor titan” reputation over the years and started his career gigging in top-tier organ groups that required a huge sound (with Jack McDuff and Lonnie Smith), Lovano has also developed into one of our most introspective saxophonists, armed with a tone that can also be a whisper or a confession. The most introspective jazz record label, ECM, has featured Lovano in the groups of other musicians, but Trio Tapestry is his debut for the label. Playing with ECM stalwart pianist Marilyn Crispell and fellow Cleveland native Carmen Castaldi on drums, Lovano has put together a program of minimal tone poems that explore musical space and its relationship to silence.

[…] This band both rises to the occasion of such lyricism and goes beyond it. Lovano’s sound is utterly his own: woody and personal while still gentle and sumptuous. Crispell could never be mistaken for other ECM pianists of fame, whether Keith Jarrett or Bobo Stenson. She is utterly her own through note choice, phrasing, voicing, and rhythmic temperament’“creating a voice that feels both still and teetering on the edge of potential energy.

And perhaps that is the difference with this band on ECM. There is never any stillness in this set of performances. They, like composer and saxophonist Joe Lovano, are in a constant state of becoming and evolving. It is music in motion, even if that motion is mostly slow.


Will Layman

On Trio Tapestry : Veteran saxophone player Joe Lovano is one of the most acclaimed and beloved horn wielders in jazz, and no wonder: with his work with Woody Herman, John Scofield, Dave Douglas, Bill Frisell and Paul Motian and countless others, not to mention his own long series of LPs as leader, he’s had a large hand in defining late twentieth century postbop. For Trio Tapestry, his debut for the venerable label ECM, he enlists pianist Marilyn Crispell and drummer Carmen Castaldi for a more meditative program than we’re used to hearing from him. Working with less frenetic tempos and floating melodies, the saxophonist digs deep into the tracks, exploring their nooks and crannies instead of using them for takeoff. In the vein of Lovano’s old bandmate Motian, Castaldi doesn’t so much set the rhythms as imply them, while Crispell wanders across her keyboard with intent. Lovano slips into the quiet storm like a dancer, finding the core of his sidefolks’ swirl and bringing it to shimmering life. The beauteous ‘Seeds of Change’ and ‘Razzle Dazzle’ and tension-filled ‘Spirit Lake’ and ‘Rare Beauty’ showcase the trio’s telepathic interplay and sublime taste, while ‘The Smiling Dog’ and the self-explanatory ‘Piano/Drum Episode’ and ‘Gong Episode’ indicate a goofy sense of humor. But ‘Mystic’ may be the album’s heart. Barely accompanied by Castaldi, Lovano pushes the top of his horn’s range high up in the ether, like he’s eager, but not desperate, to touch the divine.

The Big Takeover

Michael Toland

On Trio Tapestry : Joe Lovano’s first album as a leader on ECM introduces a new trio. Marilyn Crispell is a pianist from the jazz avant-garde. Her background is unusual for a Lovano collaborator. Carmen Castaldi is a drummer from the Paul Motian school of minimalism. The first track, “One Time In,” opens with Lovano on gongs. You know the haunting sound from your dreams. A nocturnal atmosphere descends. Lovano’s first tenor saxophone notes are soft and measured, adjectives not often applied to his music. Such rapt inner focus, such quietude, has long been associated with the ECM aesthetic.

[…] But here, in this spare context, he deals with fewer ideas and therefore concentrates on the essential ones. It is fascinating to hear him develop diverse melodies from the stepping stones of his tunes. In this bare trio, the beauty of his musical logic is laid bare. The reverberations of his gongs add mystery and also suggest key centers for improvisation.

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Thomas Conrad

On Trio Tapestry : For anyone who has followed the career of saxophonist Joe Lovano, it might be hard to believe he’s never released an album for ECM Records. Yes, he’s a longtime Blue Note artist whose most recent release — by Sound Prints, the quintet he leads with trumpeter Dave Douglas — can be found on Douglas’ label, Greenleaf Music.

But Lovano has been a vital presence within the ECM ecosystem for more than 35 years, on albums by drummer Paul Motian and others. (A couple of those were credited to “Paul Motian, Joe Lovano, Bill Frisell.”) He’s finally about to have an ECM title solely under his own name: Trio Tapestry, which the label will release on Jan. 25.

The album features a new band with pianist Marilyn Crispell and drummer Carmen Castaldi, who come with some pertinent history. Crispell is a veteran ECM artist who, like Lovano, had a deep musical connection with Motian. And Castaldi has been a compatriot of Lovano’s since their teenage years in Cleveland; they matriculated the same year at the Berklee School of Music. All of which informs the intimate character of the music on Trio Tapestry, which Lovano composed with attunement to 12-tone techniques.

The music on this album is shadowy and supple, designed to drift according to the slightest gesture by any one of the musicians. That art of implication is fully evident on “Rare Beauty,” which has its premiere here.

Beginning with a soft rumble of Castaldi’s toms, the piece eases into a melodic line that Lovano and Crispell play together in a free-flowing rubato. It’s very much in tune with the style that Lovano and Crispell each favored in trios with Motian. (It also bears a relationship to the lyricism of Ornette Coleman – which likely explains the title, with its echo of “Beauty is a Rare Thing.”) And the pliable cohesion on display underscores how much this is a collective achievement.


Nate Chinen