Joe Lovano Biography
"I’m All For You was the springboard for Joyous Encounter," says Lovano, who after the ballads album went on the road with a quartet that showcased Jones. "Hank and I played over 30 different gigs, which meant that we put a lot of different tunes together. The first album was all ballads where the concept was that each tune would have a flavor and feel that unfolded naturally among the four of us. Everyone was so positive about the record that I decided to reassemble the same personnel and record another album with different tempos and rhythms again, just letting the tunes flow."
I’m All For You was a resounding success, which resulted in the CD appearing in many Best of 2004 lists, including the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, Seattle Times, and a #1 pick in the New York Times. When the album was released, the New York Times said, "[Lovano is] a soulful, note-caressing, tradition-loving tenor player [and] this quartet goes deep into jazz’s traditional pulse, while retaining a great deal of its mystery, its sense of moment-to-moment discovery." The Miami Herald called the CD "60 minutes of aural bliss," the Washington Post said "this unlikely quartet approaches a repertoire by turns commonplace and inventive and reconfigures it all into aural gold," and Time Out New York praised the CD as one that "will go down in history as a great album of ballads."
"I’m thrilled that people listened and dug the feeling from tune to tune," Lovano says. "This is the most creative quartet I’ve ever played standards with, so it made total sense that we do a follow-up." Bruce Lundvall, President of EMI Jazz & Classics, heard the quartet in concert and encouraged Lovano to re-enter the studio with Jones, Mraz and Motian. "I love working with Bruce because he has the trust," Lovano says. "He let us do whatever we wanted."
In essence, Joyous Encounter is a celebration of the Jones family legacy, which Lovano has experienced since he was a young up-and-comer. One of his early gigs in New York was with the Mel Lewis Big Band that was co-founded by trumpeter Thad Jones. Three of Thad's tunes appear on the CD: the mid-tempo "Don’t Ever Leave Me," a number Lovano played in Lewis’s band but that neither Hank or Motian had ever performed; the beautiful waltz "Quiet Lady," that Hank brought to the session and that features a lyrical Mraz solo; and the gorgeous ballad "A Child Is Born," featuring Lovano on curved soprano. Of the latter, Lovano says, "This is one of Thad’s most famous tunes that has been recorded a lot. But Hank played it with revoicings and new harmonies as if it were the first time he ever performed it. In fact, every note that Hank played is a new harmony."
The quartet pays homage to Elvin Jones on a couple of tunes, including Coltrane’s swinging "Crescent" and Nelson’s uptempo "Six and Four." "When Elvin passed in May 2004, it was a big heartbreak for the entire jazz community," says Lovano. "It was particularly rough for Hank." When Lovano was a youngster, his dream was to play with Elvin, and he got the chance in 1974, sitting in with the drummer’s group. In 1987, he toured with him as a member of his Jazz Machine and later had Jones play on his 1997 Trio Fascination, Edition 1 album.
Lovano adds, "On Oliver’s piece Paul is featured and puts this real funky, happy groove to it by playing straight eighth notes, different ethnic beats and funky displaced backbeats. You can hear us all reacting and having a lot of fun."
Ironically, "Joyous Encounter," written for the date, is played with Jones sitting out. "We recorded it as a quartet, but something surprising happened when we did it as a trio. The contrast and spark of a trio exploration just took off and really worked for me. I named the album Joyous Encounter because that is the essence of the whole meeting, recording with Paul, George and especially Hank, and putting this all together has truly been one of the most joyous musical experiences of my lifetime."