Joe Lovano Us Five: Kennett Square, PA, January 19, 2013
A brief but swinging reading of "Our Daily Bread" followed before "Viva Caruso" ended the concert. The finale began with a lengthy but fascinating call-and-response duet between Brown and Mela, whose intuitive interplay and affable repartee provides Us Five its most salient detail. On record their latticelike exchanges are tastefully blended in stereophonic soundin person one can easily distinguish between their dissimilar methods. Conjuring the entire spectrum of jazz drumming, Brown and Mela traded an array of mercurial rhythmic variations with a spirited élan that held the audience in rapt attention. Inspired by their ecstatic dialogue, Lovano launched into a rapturous coda, ending the show on a high note.
Lovano's enthusiasm for all aspects of the jazz canon is fully realized by Us Five, more so than any of his previous endeavors. The quintet embraces every facet of the saxophonist's interests, incorporating ballads, blues and swing with bop, funk and free playing. The unifying factor between Us Five's studio recordings and live performances is the unit's total embrace of rhythm; rarely have jazz ensembles so effectively utilized two stylistically different drummers at once. Augmented by the kaleidoscopic fretwork of guest guitarist Lionel Loueke, Cross Culture is Us Five's most captivating studio session to date, but the band's live gigs are not to be missed.