Cross Culture

Joe Lovano’s Us Five

The third release of saxophonist Joe Lovano and his band Us Five builds on the strengths of the prior two. “Blessings in May” opens the disc with strong playing and lots of rhythmic accents; this is one of the few jazz ensembles utilizing two drumset players, Otis Brown III and Francisco Mela. “Journey Within,” like all but Billy Strayhorn’s “Star Crossed Lovers,” is an original, not the Charles Lloyd composition. Lovano converses with guitarist Lionel Loueke over the drummer’s pulse, and James Weidman’s piano delicately supports Lovano on the Strayhorn classic. Otherwise, the music is more aggressive, with influences from Ornette to Coltrane. Esperanza Spalding alternates bass with Peter Slavov; together they enhance “Golden Horn,” with balafon colors by Mela. The closing “PM,” for Paul Motian, stretches out in a cat-and-mouse musical game. Cross Culture exemplifies the importance of maintaining steady personnel and building musical camaraderie.