Joe Lovano will be in concert with Jakob Bro at the Cervantes theatre on Monday. AQUAPIO FILMS LTD
Jazz musician Joe Lovano: 'My advice to young people: be yourself and tell your own story'

Jazz musician Joe Lovano: 'My advice to young people: be yourself and tell your own story'

The American saxophonist speaks to SUR ahead of his concert in Malaga as part as the city's International Jazz Festival

Regina Sotorrío


Friday, 3 November 2023, 18:30


Joe Lovano was unaware that next week he would be picking up a prize in Malaga until he received the questions for this interview. "I didn't know; that's a surprise for me. Thank you!" he wrote, responding by email to avoid problems of time differences and schedule.

This coming Monday, during his concert in Malaga's Cervantes theatre, the saxophonist will receive the Málaga Jazz prize, a recognition of his virtuosity on an instrument in a genre more demanding than most. Lovano already has a Grammy under his belt (and another 14 nominations) and admits to being "honoured" by the distinction. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1952, he is the son of Tony ("Big T") Lovano, also tenor saxophonist.

Joe Lovano returns to the Cervantes theatre stage as part of the 37th International Jazz Festival, this time accompanied by guitarist Jakob Bro paying tribute to composer and drummer Paul Motian, in whose trio Lovano was a longtime member. (Monday 6 November at 8pm, tickets cost between 12 and 36 euros).

The last time you were in Malaga, if I remember rightly, was to rehearse for an international tour with Chucho Valdés. Do you remember that?

Yes, very fondly. The rehearsal and our concert at the beautiful Teatro Cervantes with Chucho was a thrill.

I was at that rehearsal and there were great vibes - you connected immediately...

Maestro Valdés and I first met in Havana when I was a member of the Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra in 1986 or so. We started our collaborations together in 2003, so we had a history prior to the Malaga rehearsal.

Singer Sheila Jordan, a friend of Charlie Parker, says that she is still touring at 94 because she has to keep jazz alive. Do you think it's in danger? Is it cared for more in Europe than in the US?

I love Sheila Jordan, she is an inspiration. Jazz is an idea that will never die. There is no ministry of culture in the US like there is all over Europe. Jazz is a universal music that is not limited to borders. It's all one for me.

In Malaga you'll be picking up the MálagaJazz prize. It comes after winning a Grammy. Do you still enjoy getting recognition?

I'm all about sharing the blessings and feel honoured to have some recognition for my efforts. I didn't know about the MálagaJazz Prize, that's a surprise for me. Thank you!

Sometimes we need a pat on the back to know that we're going in the right direction, don't you think?

For me having the embrace of the masters I've worked with gives me the confidence and drive to move into tomorrow.

Awards like that invite you to look back. What do you see? Are you nostalgic?

Throughout my lifetime it's always been about reflections and projections.

Jazz needs special concentration and sensibility. Are you able to detach yourself from what is happening in the world?

Our Daily Bread [the last album] is a prayer for peace with love. It's also a reaction to all of the aggressive energy around us. Music gives us an opportunity to express ourselves with sounds and feelings of all things we experience on a daily basis.

You grew up in a house full of jazz, with your father as a role model. What advice would you give young musicians?

I say if you live in the sounds and spirits of the music it will set you free. Be yourself and tell your own story. Mind, body and soul.

In your work you have paid tribute to different genres, from Frank Sinatra to Enrico Caruso. Can everything be put through the jazz filter?

Deep down, jazz and the art of improvising are your personal story about where you've travelled in your development as a musician. To embrace all things, listen, and share the space with everyone around you in a spontaneous, collective exploration of the music.

Apart from jazz, what music do you listen to?

The timeless, global, cultural rhythm. Sounds and feelings of nature and life is the music that inspires.

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