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"I didn't approach this as a tribute record," states Joe Lovano, dispelling right off the bat any preconception that his new album Bird Songs--an exploration of the Charlie Parker songbook--is a mere retread. Lovano's 22nd album for Blue Note Records (the release of which will mark his 20th year on the label) breaks the mold of Bird tribute records. Bird Songs is a thrillingly adventurous, thoroughly modern, and uniquely personal look at one of the most influential figures in jazz history by one of the most important voices in the music today. Us Five turned out to be the perfect vehicle for his exploration. Lovano's dynamic young band--which features drummers Otis Brown III and Francisco Mela, bassist Esperanza Spalding, and pianist James Weidman--has been captivating audiences around the world for several years now. Their debut recording--2009's Folk Art--was a wide-ranging set of Lovano's original compositions that resulted in Us Five being awarded Best Small Ensemble of the Year at the 2010 JJA Jazz Awards and winning the Best Jazz Group of the Year category in the 2010 DownBeat Critics Poll. Lovano completed a double-triple of awards by also winning the JJA's Musician and Tenor Saxophonist of the Year, and DownBeat's Jazz Artist and Tenor Saxophonist of the Year. "Putting this recording together I kept wondering how Bird would have developed within these tunes, not just as the incredible soloist that he was but as an arranger and band leader. From what we know about him it is clear that he was into the world of music beyond so called Jazz and Be Bop and I'm sure we would have all been surprised at every turn in his approach just as we were with Miles, Coltrane, Rollins and Coleman, four of his most distinguished and celebrated disciples. At the young age of 34 Charlie Parker passed and left us with all of these questions about what would be. This recording is my humble attempt to answer some of those questions in my own way."