Joe Lovano

Joe Lovano

Photo by Ed Newman
Background information
Birth name Joseph Salvatore Lovano
Born (1952-12-29) December 29, 1952
Cleveland, Ohio, United States
Genres Jazz, post-bop, modal jazz, hard bop
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Tenor saxophone
Years active 1970s–present
Labels Soul Note, Evidence, Enja, Blue Note
Associated acts Saxophone Summit, SFJAZZ Collective, McCoy Tyner, Shades of Jazz, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra

Joseph Salvatore "Joe" Lovano (born December 29, 1952) is an American post bop jazz saxophonist, alto clarinetist, flautist, and drummer. Since the late 1980s, Lovano has been one of the world's premiere tenor saxophone players, earning a Grammy Award and several mentions on Down Beat magazine's critics' and readers' polls. He is married to jazz singer Judi Silvano.


Early life

Lovano was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to Sicilian-American parents. His father's family came from Alcara Li Fusi in Sicily, and his mother's family came from Cesarò, also in Sicily. In Cleveland, Lovano was exposed throughout his early life to jazz by his father, tenor saxophonist Tony "Big T" Lovano, who taught him the standards, how to lead a gig, pace a set, and be versatile enough to always find work. Lovano started on alto at age six and switched to tenor five years later. John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, and Sonny Stitt were among his earlier influences. After graduating from Euclid High School in 1971,[1][2] he went to Berklee College of Music, where he studied under Herb Pomeroy and Gary Burton.


After Berklee he worked with Jack McDuff and Dr. Lonnie Smith. After three years with Woody Herman's orchestra, Lovano moved to New York and began playing regularly with Mel Lewis's Big Band. This influence is still present in his solos. He often plays lines that convey the rhythmic drive and punch of an entire horn section.[3]

Joe Lovano, Paul Motian and Bill Frisell

In the early 1980s Lovano began working in John Scofield's quartet and a bass-less trio with Paul Motian and Bill Frisell. Steeped in the tradition of Ornette Coleman, Motian's recordings show off Lovano's avant-garde abilities. In 1993, at the suggestion of musicologist Gunther Schuller, fellow Clevelander and bebop guitarist Bill DeArango recorded the album Anything Went with Lovano. "He was a major mentor for all of us round here," said Lovano. In 1999, having developed dementia, DeArango was taken into a nursing home, where Lovano visited him on December 26, 2005. Two hours after Lovano left, DeArango died. "He knew we were there," said Lovano. "His heartbeat raced. He knew we were there."[3]

Lovano's Quartets: Live at the Village Vanguard, garnered a Down Beat "Jazz Album of the Year" award. Other releases include Trio Fascination and 52nd Street Themes. In the late 1990s, he formed the Saxophone Summit with Dave Liebman and Michael Brecker (later replaced by Ravi Coltrane). Lovano played the tenor saxophone on the 2007 McCoy Tyner album Quartet. In 2006 Lovano released Streams of Expression, a tribute to cool jazz and free jazz. He did this with the help of Gunther Schuller, who contributed his "Birth of the Cool Suite". Lovano and pianist Hank Jones released an album together in June 2007, entitled Kids.

In 2008 Lovano formed the quintet Us Five with rising star Esperanza Spalding on bass, pianist James Weidman formerly associated with Abbey Lincoln and the M-Base collective, and the two drummers Francisco Mela and Otis Brown III. Their initial album Folk Art was the first to comprise exclusively originals by Lovano, that the band was meant to interpret with intense interaction in the spirit of the avantgarde of the 1960s and the successive loft scene.[4] Although the follow-up was not approached as such (according to Lovano), Bird Songs (2011) was a tribute to Charlie Parker.[5] On Cross Culture, the third subsequent album by Us Five, released in 2013 on Blue Note, the quintet was augmented by West African guitarist Lionel Loueke. Lovano saw the occasion to play a variety of reed and percussion instruments he had been colleting since the late 1970s. "Ubergirl bassist"[6] Spalding is replaced by Peter Slavov for six of the tracks, that were again all written by Lovano, with the exception of Billy Strayhorn's "Star Crossed Lovers". "The idea [...] wasn't just to play at the same time, but to collectively create music within the music," Lovano wrote in the liner notes to Cross Culture. "Everyone is leading and following," and "the double drummer configuration adds this other element of creativity."[6][7]

Lovano has been the teacher of Jeff Coffin after the latter received an NEA Jazz Studies Grant in 1991.[8] He currently holds the Gary Burton Chair in Jazz Performance at Berklee College of Music.[9]

Lovano appears in Noah Buschel's film The Missing Person in 2008, starring Amy Ryan and Michael Shannon.


Lovano has played Borgani saxophones since 1991 and exclusively since 1999. He has his own series called Borgani-Lovano, which uses Pearl-Silver Alloy with Gold 24K keys.[10]


As leader

As co-leader

With Dave Douglas

With James Emery, Judi Silvano, and Drew Gress

  • Fourth World (Between the Lines, 2001)

With Jim Hall, George Mraz, and Lewis Nash

  • Grand Slam: Live at the Regatta Bar (Telarc,2000)

With Hank Jones

With Greg Osby

With Gonzalo Rubalcaba

  • Flying Colors (Blue Note, 1997)

With Saxophone Summit (Michael Brecker, Dave Liebman)

  • Gathering of Spirits (Telarc, 2004)

With ScoLoHoFo (John Scofield, Dave Holland, Al Foster)

  • Oh! (Blue Note, 2003)

As sideman

With Antonio Faraò

  • Evan (Cristal, 2013)

With John Abercrombie

With Michael Bocian

  • For This Gift (Gunmar 1982)

With Furio di Castri

  • Unknown Voyage (A Témpo, 1985)

With Peter Erskine

  • Sweet Soul (Novus/BMG, 1991)

With Charlie Haden

With Tom Harrell

With Marc Johnson

With Steve Kuhn

With Masada Quintet

With Paul Motian

With John Scofield

With Dan Silverman

  • Silverslide (Around the Slide, 2007)

With Bill Stewart

  • Snide Remarks (Blue Note, 1995)
  • Think Before You Think (Evidence, 1998)

With Steve Swallow

With McCoy Tyner

With Roseanna Vitro

With Yōsuke Yamashita

  • Kurdish Dance (Verve, 1993)
  • Dazzling Days (Verve, 1993)


  1. Mosbrook, Joe (September 16, 1996). "Jazzed in Cleveland: Part Twelve". Cleveland, the New American City website. Retrieved 2012-05-16.
  2. "Lovano, Joe". Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians. Retrieved 2012-05-16.
  3. 1 2 "Joe Lovano | saxophone | Blue Music Group". Retrieved 2013-01-15.
  4. Cf. Folk Art on Lovano's homepage.
  5. About Bird Songs on Lovano's homepage.
  6. 1 2 Eugene Holley Jr. (January 15, 2013). "Editor's Pick: Joe Lovano Us Five at Longwood Gardens". Philadelphia Weekly. Retrieved January 18, 2013.
  7. About Cross Culture on Lovano's homepage.
  8. "Clinics/Education " Jeff Coffin Music". Retrieved 2013-01-15.
  9. Small, Mark. "Joe Lovano '72 Will Be First to Occupy Gary Burton Chair in Jazz Performance". Berklee Today. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
  10. Joe Lovano. "Pearl Silver body and Gold 24K keys". Retrieved January 18, 2013.

External links

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