Tenor Madness: Joe Lovano’s “Viva Caruso” and the Italian Jazz Diaspora

John Gennari, University of Vermont

Tenor saxophonist and jazz composer Joe Lovano’s 2002 recording “Viva Caruso” features small combos and a 12-piece chamber ensemble performing Caruso’s opera “hits,” obscure tunes, classics of the Neapolitan song tradition, and a four-part suite, “Il Carnevale di Pulcinella,” a tribute to comedia dell’arte and the tarantella.  Lovano’s “Viva Caruso” fosters fresh ways of thinking about Italian influence in the jazz tradition by evoking Caruso’s voice, body, and musical world, suggesting connections between early New Orleans jazz and Mediterranean song forms and rhythms, and drawing attention to a masculine operatic idiom central to jazz since the pioneering work of Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, and Coleman Hawkins.