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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



‘Viva Caruso’

Blue Note/Capitol 7243 5 35986 2 4



Joe Lovano Street Band:- Joe Lovano – Tenor Saxophone, Gil Goldstein – Accordion, Judi Silvano – Voice, Ed Schuller – Bass, Scott Lee – Bass, Billy Drewes – Clarinet, Joey Baron – Drums, Carmen Castaldi – Drums, Bob Meyer – Drums, Jamey Haddad – Mazar frame drum, Michael Bocian – Guitar, Herb Robertson – Trumpet, Gary Valente – Trombone.

The Opera Ensemble:- Joe Lovano – Tenor Saxophone, Byron Olson – Arrangements, Orchestrations and Conductor, Helen Campo – Flute, Dick Oatts – Flute, Billy Drewes – Clarinet, Charlie Russo – Bass Clarinet, Kim Lackowski – Bassoon, Michael Rabinowitz – Bassoon, Tom Christainson – Oboe & English Horn, John Clark – French Horn, Judi Silvano – Voice (tracks 5 & 8), Gil Goldstein – Accordion (tracks 5, 10 & 12), Ed Schuller – Bass (tracks 2 4 & 8), Scott Lee – Bass (tracks 5 10 & 12), Joey Baron – Drums.


Vesti La Giubba – I Pagliacci


Viva Caruso


Tarantella Sincera


Campane A Sera (Evening Bells)


The Streets of Naples


Santa Lucia


Cielo Turchino (Deep Blue Sky)


Soltanto A Tte (Only To You)


Pecche? (Why?)


Il Carnivale Di Pulcinella (Suite)


O Sole Mio


For You Alone


Joe Lovano’s ‘Viva Caruso,’ is his thirteenth album for Blue Note and dedicated to the music of that great Italian tenor Enrico Caruso – some titles are taken from the Caruso collection ‘Caruso In Song’ whilst others are written and arranged by Lovano. This is my selection for CD of the year. Whilst it features two groups of musicians, the ‘Joe Lovano Street Band’ and the ‘Opera House Ensemble’ some players are featured with both. The instrumentation is new to say the least! The ten-piece Street Band includes two bass players, up to three drummers, accordion and voice. Within this set-up he experiments by featuring duos, trios etc. gradually building up to full strength. The outcome is contemporary jazz of the highest quality and Lovano must surely be in the handful of top tenor players in the world.

All the tracks hold some individual appeal and several display a special attraction. The opening unison chorus to the ‘Streets of Naples’ is so descriptive that it immediately brings to mind the atmosphere of that city. After that initial theme both Lovano and Gil Goldstein launch into melodic and expressive solos and then its back to the theme again – nothing complicated or over-stretched, just good music. The whole composition is played around a ‘Latin’ rhythm. The title song ‘Viva Caruso’ is another of the highlights of the album – again we hear an infectious rhythm backing what is a very simple tune with Lovano working around the harmonics. His solo confirms his high esteem amongst fellow musicians and modern music fans alike. ‘Campane A Sera’ is an expressive piece featuring fine work between Lovano, Judi Silvano and the flutes. The other nine tracks are clever with often unexpected forays into either Caruso’s popular songs or Lovano’s accomplished interpretation of the contribution that Caruso made to popular music.

He considers this work is ‘the culmination of many long developing strands coupled with his and his wife’s fascination with opera as well as dance.’ The idea was to try and interpret that music with its various rhythms, harmonies and style in a way that’s ‘free and organic.’ This he does in such a way that should appeal to all fans of progressive music. As one biographer put it "‘Viva Caruso’ is a roots project, Lovano the ethnic Folklorist." I couldn’t agree more!

Jack Ashby

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