Joe Lovano Trio Live at Kennedy School

Mt. Hood Jazz Festival Presents
Joe Lovano Trio
Live at the Kennedy School
by S.H. Watkins, Sr.

Kennedy school is a real school that was converted to a hotel with restaurants, a cigar bar, and most notably the converted auditorium which now serves as a theater. A comfortable mishmash of theater seats, couches, chairs and small tables, it’s a friendly setting where local folks come to watch movies while having a beer and some pizza. It’s also a room with great acoustics and a raised stage at one end. This night it provided a perfect, intimate environment for Joe Lovano, bassist Dennis Irwin and drummer Lewis Nash.

Bill Royston, artistic director for the Mt Hood Jazz Festival opened the show with a few words about Joe, and a few more about this years Mt. Hood Jazz Festival, then he introduced the trio. The set

Lewis Nash

opened with Flights of Fancy, the title track from a recent release. Soaring and waning, Lovano alternately glided then fluttered through this piece, at times almost pleading through the saxophone. Streets of Naples came next, rolling in on a 2-3 minute Lewis Nash drum solo. Nash got his start with Betty Carter and has since played with the cream of the jazz crop, ascending to that level in the process. When Lovano and bassist Dennis Irwin finally come in, they do so with a definite festival flavor, leading into a fine, extended solo by Irwin, then back to the festival before winding it down.

The trio went soulful on a tune made famous by Sarah Vaughn (Let’s call the whole thing off) but delivered in Lovano’s improvisational, soaring style. The follow up was a Coletrane tune with a very “Arabian Nights” feel to it. The latter parts of the song featured some marvelous interplay between Lovano and drummer Nash, who really showed his chops tonight. After each tune the entire audience showed it’s appreciation with rousing rounds of applause, testament to the treat that was served up at the Kennedy this night.

Speaking of serving up, during intermission, tickets to the 2003 Mt. Hood Jazz Fest were available at 1/2 price. As a result, there was a very long ticket line and I was left with plenty of time for schmoozing, as well as a chance to grab some pizza and Jazz Guy ale before the band recommenced.

The second set began with the beautiful Aisha, also on Joe’s Flights of Fancy CD. As before, Lovano was creative and fluid in his interpretation as he was throughout the evening. Later in the set there was a particularly impressive collaboration between Irwin’s bass lines and Nash’s percussion. Although the performance of Lewis Nash was out of this world, Dennis Irwin should be given kudos for holding the bottom down consistently, content to shine on the occasional solo or collaboration segment. When Lovano finished rendering Viva Caruso the audience applause was resounding. Dennis Irwin got another chance to show his skills on Little Brown Box and the entire trio shone on the finisher Charlie Chang.

This was an altogether wonderful evening. The ambiance was excellent, the crowd was into the music and the set was inspiring. The Mt. Hood Jazz people are on track with this type of event, intimate and convenient. This is the same theme that they are bringing to the new Mt. Hood Jazz Festivals and it’s a welcome breath of fresh jazz in today’s commercial world.