A big, burly guy with a big, meaty sound, tenor saxman Lovano is a sort of instant elder statesman in '90s jazz: too old at 41 to be one of today's heavily hyped "young lions," he has nonetheless only recently entered the public eye, mostly for his work with guitar star John Scofield.
Lovano has a wide romantic streak—he can milk a slow ballad like this album's "Laura" for all it's worth—but he also has a quester's rigor. He couldn't, as they say, go pop with a mouthful of firecrackers.
Still, this is Lovano's most accessible album. The reason isn't the celebrity guest, saxophonist Joshua Redman; it's the beefed-up rhythm section. Joining Lewis Nash—one of jazz's half-dozen best drummers—is veteran percussionist Don Alias, and with these two stoking the fire, Tenor Legacy is loads funkier and more infectious than today's usual politely swinging mainstream jazz. Pieces like "Miss Etna" hiss and crack, while "Love Is a Many Splendored Thing" synthesizes Lovano's twin passions, rhythm and romance. As the drums boil, the sweet horns seduce. (Blue Note)