Joe Lovano

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Joe Lovano
Joe Lovano.jpg
Photo by Ed Newman
Background information
Birth name Joseph Salvatore Lovano
Born (1952-12-29) December 29, 1952 (age 64)
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
Genres Jazz, modal jazz
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Tenor saxophone
Years active 1970s–present
Labels Soul Note, Evidence, Enja, Blue Note
Associated acts Saxophone Summit, SFJAZZ Collective, McCoy Tyner, Shades of Jazz, The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, Judi Silvano, Paul Motian

Joseph Salvatore "Joe" Lovano (born December 29, 1952) is an American jazz saxophonist, alto clarinetist, flautist, and drummer. Since the late 1980s, Lovano has been one of the world's premiere tenor saxophone players, described by critic Chris Kelsey of Allmusic as "the tenor titan for our times" and relentlessly creative and innovative,[1] earning a Grammy Award and several mentions on Down Beat magazine's critics' and readers' polls. He is married to jazz singer Judi Silvano with whom he records and performs. Lovano was a longtime member of a trio led by drummer Paul Motian.


Early life[edit]

Lovano was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to Sicilian-American parents. His father's family came from Alcara Li Fusi in Sicily, and his mother's family came from Cesarò, also in Sicily. In Cleveland, Lovano was exposed throughout his early life to jazz by his father, tenor saxophonist Tony "Big T" Lovano, who taught him the standards, how to lead a gig, pace a set, and be versatile enough to always find work. Lovano started on alto at age six and switched to tenor five years later. John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, and Sonny Stitt were among his earlier influences. After graduating from Euclid High School in 1971,[2][3] he went to Berklee College of Music, where he studied under Herb Pomeroy and Gary Burton.


After Berklee he worked with Jack McDuff and Dr. Lonnie Smith. After three years with Woody Herman's orchestra, Lovano moved to New York and began playing regularly with Mel Lewis's Big Band. This influence is still present in his solos. He often plays lines that convey the rhythmic drive and punch of an entire horn section.[4]

Joe Lovano, Paul Motian and Bill Frisell

In the early 1980s Lovano began working in John Scofield's quartet and a bass-less trio with Paul Motian and Bill Frisell. Steeped in the tradition[citation needed] of Ornette Coleman, Motian's recordings show off Lovano's avant-garde abilities. In 1993, at the suggestion of musicologist Gunther Schuller, fellow Clevelander and bebop guitarist Bill DeArango recorded the album Anything Went with Lovano. "He was a major mentor for all of us round here," said Lovano. In 1999, having developed dementia, DeArango was taken into a nursing home, where Lovano visited him on December 26, 2005. Two hours after Lovano left, DeArango died. "He knew we were there," said Lovano. "His heartbeat raced. He knew we were there."[4]

Lovano's Quartets: Live at the Village Vanguard, garnered a Down Beat "Jazz Album of the Year" award. Other releases include Trio Fascination and 52nd Street Themes. In the late 1990s, he formed the Saxophone Summit with Dave Liebman and Michael Brecker (later replaced by Ravi Coltrane). Lovano played the tenor saxophone on the 2007 McCoy Tyner album Quartet. In 2006 Lovano released Streams of Expression, a tribute to cool jazz and free jazz. He did this with the help of Gunther Schuller, who contributed his "Birth of the Cool Suite". Lovano and pianist Hank Jones released an album together in June 2007, entitled Kids.

In 2008 Lovano formed the quintet Us Five with rising star Esperanza Spalding on bass, pianist James Weidman formerly associated with Abbey Lincoln and the M-Base collective, and the two drummers Francisco Mela and Otis Brown III. Their initial album Folk Art was the first to comprise exclusively originals by Lovano, that the band was meant to interpret with intense interaction in the spirit of the avantgarde of the 1960s and the successive loft scene.[5] Although the follow-up was not approached as such (according to Lovano), Bird Songs (2011) was a tribute to Charlie Parker.[6] On Cross Culture, the third subsequent album by Us Five, released in 2013 on Blue Note, the quintet was augmented by West African guitarist Lionel Loueke. Lovano saw the occasion to play a variety of reed and percussion instruments he had been colleting since the late 1970s. "Ubergirl bassist"[7] Spalding is replaced by Peter Slavov for six of the tracks, that were again all written by Lovano, with the exception of Billy Strayhorn's "Star Crossed Lovers". "The idea [...] wasn't just to play at the same time, but to collectively create music within the music," Lovano wrote in the liner notes to Cross Culture. "Everyone is leading and following," and "the double drummer configuration adds this other element of creativity."[7][8]

Lovano has been the teacher of Jeff Coffin after the latter received an NEA Jazz Studies Grant in 1991.[9] He currently[when?] holds the Gary Burton Chair in Jazz Performance at Berklee College of Music.[10]

Lovano appears in Noah Buschel's film The Missing Person in 2008, starring Amy Ryan and Michael Shannon.


Lovano has played Borgani saxophones since 1991 and exclusively since 1999. He has his own series called Borgani-Lovano, which uses Pearl-Silver Alloy with Gold 24K keys.[11]



  1. ^
  2. ^ Mosbrook, Joe (September 16, 1996). "Jazzed in Cleveland: Part Twelve". Cleveland, the New American City website. Retrieved 2012-05-16.
  3. ^ "Lovano, Joe". Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians. Retrieved 2012-05-16.
  4. ^ a b "Joe Lovano | saxophone | Blue Music Group". Retrieved 2013-01-15. 
  5. ^ Cf. Folk Art on Lovano's homepage.
  6. ^ About Bird Songs on Lovano's homepage.
  7. ^ a b Eugene Holley Jr. (January 15, 2013). "Editor's Pick: Joe Lovano Us Five at Longwood Gardens". Philadelphia Weekly. Retrieved January 18, 2013. 
  8. ^ About Cross Culture on Lovano's homepage.
  9. ^ "Clinics/Education " Jeff Coffin Music". Retrieved 2013-01-15. 
  10. ^ Small, Mark. "Joe Lovano '72 Will Be First to Occupy Gary Burton Chair in Jazz Performance". Berklee Today. Retrieved November 22, 2011. 
  11. ^ Joe Lovano. "Pearl Silver body and Gold 24K keys". Retrieved January 18, 2013. 

External links[edit]