Joe Lovano is a Grammy-winning saxophonist, composer, and arranger. Down Beat magazine has twice named him Jazz Artist of the Year, and he scored a prestigious trifecta in 1998: nominations for Musician of the Year, Improviser of the Year, and Best Tenor Saxophonist in the New York Jazz Awards. He also topped both the Down Beat readers and critics polls as Tenor Player of the Year in 2000. Lovano attended Berklee in the early 1970s and received an honorary doctor of music degree from the college in 1998. In the fall of 2001 he began a prestigious teaching residency in the Berklee Ensemble Department, known as the Gary Burton Chair in Jazz Performance. Since joining the Berklee faculty, the Blue Note artist has several albums as a leader and appeared on dozens of other recordings. He is also a faculty member in the Berklee Global Jazz Institute. Lovano has collaborated with many legendary musicians, including McCoy Tyner, Hank Jones, Joshua Redman, Bill Frisell, Branford Marsalis, Jim Hall, and Paul Motian.
"I was around a lot of beautiful energy as a kid. My dad was one of the leading modern jazz saxophonists in the Cleveland, Ohio, area. Two of my uncles played sax—one of them also played clarinet—and another uncle played trumpet. My dad was my main influence and inspiration. Just hearing him practice in the house really got to me; his tone just vibrated the house. He was also my teacher, and I learned a lot of things by ear, because he would play for me and I'd have to repeat it back. We'd practice together, and there was a certain sense of how to blend with another saxophone player that was really instrumental in developing my approach."
"I learned about playing with people when I went to rehearsals with my dad at 15 or 16, hearing him play with different players and rhythm sections, like piano, bass, and drums, or trios with organs. I would also see them play song after song without music in front of them, and because I wanted to play with those guys—I wanted them to dig me—I tried to memorize the tunes they were playing. Once you retain the melodies, the whole process of playing variations is alive in your concept."
"In my own teaching, I reach back into all those early lessons about how to teach yourself, how to put it all together from the elements of the music, how to play within the interpretation of the melody, and how to play with people. When I say 'elements' I mean polyrhythmic structure and development, and harmonic sounds, colors, voices, and scales. It's the harmonic rhythm that the bass player and piano player are playing, and the polyrhythmic conception that the drummer is playing within that harmonic sequence."
"I do a lot of unaccompanied playing and try to get everybody to do that, as well. It's important to develop a solo unaccompanied approach—to learn a tune on your own on your instrument, not playing along with a record, but embracing your own sound. Every time I play, I want to have a joyous feeling when I embrace my horn. Because jazz, to me, is your personal expression on your instrument. Every time you play is a summation of where you've traveled as a player, and that comes out in your music. It's not how fast you can play this lick, or this pattern. It's developing an approach that lets you be free on your instrument to execute your personality within whatever kind of music it is."