Joe Lovano, saxophone

Hailed by the New York Times as “one of the greatest musicians in jazz history,” Grammy
Award winning saxophone giant Joe Lovano has distinguished himself for some three decades
as a prescient and path finding force in the arena of creative music. The secret to Lovano’s
success is his fearless ability to push the conceptual and thematic choices he has made in his
quest to find new modes of artistic expression within the jazz idiom.

Since 2009, Lovano’s main vehicle for his exploration has been Us Five a dynamic young
band–which features drummers Otis Brown III and Francisco Mela, bassist Esperanza
Spalding, and pianist James Weidman The band’s most recent release–Bird Songs
Lovano’s 22nd album for Blue Note Records (the release of which marked his 20th year on
the label) is an exploration of the Charlie Parker songbook that breaks the mold of Bird tribute
records. In 2011 the JJA (Jazz Journalist’s Association) named Bird Songs Recording of the the Year and named Us
Five Small Ensemble of the Year. It was also the Downbeat Editor’s Pick for Album of
the Year. Us Five’s debut recording–2009’s Folk Art–was a wide-ranging set of Lovano’s
original compositions that resulted in Us Five being awarded Best Small Ensemble of the Year
at the 2010 JJA Jazz Awards and winning the Best Jazz Group of the Year category in the
2010 DownBeat Critics Poll. Lovano completed a double-triple of awards by also winning the
JJA’s Musician and Tenor Saxophonist of the Year, and DownBeat’s Jazz Artist and Tenor
Saxophonist of the Year.

Joe Lovano was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1952, and began playing alto saxophone as a child. A
prophetic infant photo of Lovano shows him cradled in his mother’s arms along with a
saxophone. His father, tenor saxophonist Tony “Big T” Lovano, schooled Lovano not only in
the basics, but in dynamics and interpretation, and regularly exposed him to live performances
of international jazz artists such as Sonny Stitt, James Moody, Dizzy Gillespie, Gene
Ammons, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
Upon graduation from high school he attended the famed Berklee College of Music in
Boston. Lovano’s early professional gigs were as a sideman with organists Lonnie Smith,
Brother Jack McDuff, and a three-year tour with the Woody Herman Thundering Herd
from 1976 to 1979. After leaving Herman’s band, Lovano settled in New York City where he eventually joined the
Mel Lewis Orchestra for its regular Monday night concert at the Village Vanguard; playing
from 1980 to 1992 - recording six albums with the Orchestra.

To this day, Lovano finds time for very special performances with the Vanguard band and recently paid tribute to Thad Jones with Thad’s brother Hank Jones, on the Grammy
nominated, 2007 release, Kids: live at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.
Lovano joined the Paul Motian band in 1981 and has since worked and collaborated with
John Scofield, Herbie Hancock, Elvin Jones, Charlie Haden, Carla Bley, Bobby
Hutcherson, Billy Higgins, Dave Holland, Ed Blackwell, Michel Petrucciani, Lee Konitz,
Abbey Lincoln, Tom Harrell, McCoy Tyner, Ornette Coleman, Jim Hall, Bob
Brookmeyer and many more.

Lovano’s illustrious relationship with Blue Note Records began in 1991 and includes eight
Grammy nominations with a win in the Best Large Ensemble category for 2000’s 52nd
Street Themes. Also in recent years, Lovano has spent a good deal of time collaborating, both in the studio
and the concert hall, with two other premier tenor saxophonists of his generation, Dave
Liebman and the late Michael Brecker in the collective Saxophone Summit. Their first
release Gathering of the Spirits was released in 2004 on Telarc. After the untimely passing
of Michael Brecker, Lovano and Liebman were joined by Ravi Coltrane on their acclaimed
sophomore release, Seraphic Light.

In early 2008, Joe replaced Joshua Redman in the tenor saxophone chair of the touring and
studio ensemble, the SFJazz Collective. Also in the Collective were trumpeter Dave
Douglas, trombonist Robin Eubanks, and fellow Blue Note Recording Artist vibraphonist
Stefon Harris. They joined Miguel Zenon, Renee Rosnes, Matt Penman and Eric
Harland in this popular ensemble of some of today’s most exciting jazz players.