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One Track Mind: Joe Lovano – “Central Park West” (1991)

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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 its 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. Joe LovanoAs 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 improvisational 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 very best on the scene himself.

Listen – Joe Lovano "Central Park West"

"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. Downloads are low quality rips available for only about a week.

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  • Marco López

    Man, I desagree with you. The Clapton´s version of Little Wing is one of the ugliest. Eric said in an interview that at that time he wanted to paid tribute to his friend but fell short because his version was pretty bad. Stevie Ray Vaughan version of Little Wing it´s a good one!!!

  • http://daslob.blogspot.com/ Pico

    You missed the point, though. Nobody paid much attention to “Little Wing” until Clapton covered it. Sure, SRV’s version is far superior, but I doubt he’d had recorded it if Clapton didn’t, first.

    -P