One Track Mind: Joe Lovano, "Central Park West" (1991)

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by S. Victor Aaron

Strange as this might sound, listening to Joe Lovano’s rendition of this 1960 Coltrane original makes me think of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing”. Hendrix’s “Wing” was a relatively brief and initially largely unnoticed track in it’s original form, but in someone else’s hands…Clapton’s…it became a more majestic theme and a form of tribute for it’s composer.

Likewise, “Central Park West” isn’t going to be on a list of tunes that one thinks of when they think of John Coltrane. Before Lovano got his hands on it, it was already covered, but only a handful of times. As part of his 1991 tenor tour de force appropriately called From The Soul, Lovano switches to alto for this tune (Coltrane used soprano for his), and makes it a showcase more for himself instead of the piano player as Coltrane made it for McCoy Tyner.

While some pretty heavy duty players like Ed Blackwell, Dave Holland and Michel Petrucciani were in on this recording, the spotlight for this track is almost all on Lovano. Set in a slow tempo, he states the lovely theme at the start, states it again in a slightly improvisional manner and then makes way for the pianist Petrucciani. The late, lamented Petrucciani, who liked to say “call me Bill”, does add an Evans touch to his solo, and since this song sounds as much like a Bill Evans tune as a Coltrane one, it fits in quite well.

But at 2:33, Lovano returns with more than two and a half minutes of alto saxophone bliss. He never really shows off in the “sheets of sound” sense, but he makes his sax sing like a mockingbird in the morning, evoking the romantic horn of Lester Young without actually mimicing him. The softly joyful sound works best in your living room from where you can hear the alto notes flutter throughout your home.

Even though Lovano is putting on a clinic here, this is the kind of song that casual jazz listeners could easily get into. It doesn’t demand close listening because the melody itself is strong enough to carry the song, but close listeners will find some nice subtleties from Petrucciani and especially Lovano.

And anyone wanting to explore Joe Lovano further can expect to be treated time and again if they relish an updated version of the old tenor masters. Today, Lovano remains one of the top sax players on the current scene. He laid claim to having that distinction some fifteen years ago, by taking on the song of another guy who was once the best on the scene himself.

“One Track Mind” is a weekly drool over a single song selected on a whim and a short thesis on why you should be drooling over it, too.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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