Joe Lovano & Us Five
His new band—called Us Five—consists of James Weidman, a spry young pianist who seems equally at home with lump-throat ballads and knotty mazes; Esperanza Spalding, a defter, grittier bassist here than on her own (more pop-ish) album; and Otis Brown and Francisco Mela on drums and percussion. The music, all of it composed by Lovano, has a deceptively casual feel—loose and tight, meandering and structured. Lots of small jazz bands aim for this brass-ring sensation; Us Five achieves it, and it’s head-swimming, if you give it your attention and dive in. The album was recorded, after a week of Village Vanguard gigs, at Sear Sound, the purist Manhattan studio, by James Farber, one of the top three or four jazz engineers, and, except for a bit of compression on the percussion, it sounds predictably terrific—vibrant, present, well-balanced, true to tone.