"THROUGHOUT HISTORY, THE PLAYERS THAT TOUCH YOU transcend the instrument and add their own input. The tenor saxophone voice, just its nature and the range of it, gives you a lot to work with. But it's the players that made that instrument what it is today," says tenor saxophonist and music director Joe Lovano.
Lovano was born into a musical household. His dad Tony, aka Big T, was a barber by day and a tenor player at night. In some ways, he says, it was inevitable he'd follow in his father's footsteps. "I've had horns since I was a kid and I observed him practicing and trying reeds and playing in bands," says Lovano. "He grew up in the modern jazz bebop days of Gene Ammons, Dexter Gordon, alto genius Charlie Parker and he tried to emulate that certain sound. It overcame my whole being as a kid." Once Lovano had mastered the technical demands of his instrument, that's when he started to discover his own voice. "The way you vibrate on your instrument comes from your heart and soul. That vibrato is part of your expression. If a cat is playing with a warm feeling, that comes through."
Ten or saxophonists have often been among the most important jazz musicians of their times, from Lester Young and John Coltrane, to Dexter Gordon and Joe Henderson, to name a few. This rare event teams tenor titans whose influence and power are likewise far reaching.
Lovano has been hailed by The New York Times as "one of the greatest musicians in jazz history." The GRAMMYÔÎ Award-winning sax giant has distinguished himself for some three decades. Born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1952, he graduated from the Berklee College of Music in Boston and went on to perform with the Woody Herman Thundering Herd, the Mel Lewis Orchestra, and later, joined the late Paul Motian band in 1981. Since then, Lovano has worked and collaborated with a who's who of jazz, including John Scofield, Herbie Hancock, Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner, Ornette Coleman, Hank Jones, and many more.
The other headliner of this program, Benny Golson, brings a different generation of tenor mastery to the table. Golson was born in Philadelphia, Pennyslvania in 1929. The composer, arranger, lyricist, producer, and tenor saxophonist has played in bands with Benny Goodman, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Earl Bostic, and Art Blakey. Golson is the only living jazz artist to have written eight standards for jazz repertoire. A prodigious writer, Golson has written well over 300 compositions.
"He has the most moving and beautiful improvisations. He's one of the most brilliant pe ople and mu sicians that I've ever met. He's a lways been one of the giants of the music and, for me, coming from the school of Coleman Hawkins and Don Byas: Johnny Griffin and Benny Golson were two cats that took their inspirations and made it their own," says Lovano.
Lovano is thrilled to be playing with Golson in this concert, a man he reveres as a master of his craft. He hopes the shows in The Allen Room will reflect the diverse and various influences musicians handed down from one generation to the next. "We're going to be reflecting all the master saxophone players' contributions in our own playing and in the music and compositions that they loved to play," he says. "You can't tell someone else's story, you have to tell your own story, but it comes from your influences and from your depth in music. We're going to play a flowing, creative set of the masters of the tenor saxophone, their compositions, and the love and passion that drove them to become who they were."
In addition to Lovano and Golson, the multi-instrumentalist Bennie Maupin: bass clarinet, soprano and tenor saxophones: will be featured in the show. Lovano is delighted that "three generations of players" will be on hand to showcase the history of the music, compositionally and spiritually.
Lovano says he is humbled to be part of this great heritage of jazz music. "Well, it's just a blessing to live in the world of music. I'm really happy that people are paying attention and taking it seriously, as I do, and living in this multi-cultural and multi-generational experience the way I have. I'm thrilled to be in the mix. I feel as though I'm just scratching the surface myself."
Regarding Jazz at Lincoln Center, Lovano says he's always loved playing on its stages and is proud to be part of its mission. "It's a beautiful place and there's an opportunity to support each other and to realize that we live in this amazing jazz community and world community of music that is an international experience," he says. "Jazz at Lincoln Center is a fantastic focal point in New York City that I'm proud to be associated with, and this particular affair is going to be a real experience for everyone involved."
For more information, visit jalc.org.