39. Joe Lovano Nonet / Live on this Day at the Village Vanguard (2003)
This is the way a live album should sound. I've never been to the Village Vanguard (one day) but the place looks nice and small. That said, Joe's nonet must have peeled the paint off the walls. How'd they all fit on the stage, with a baritone, piano, and drum kit? Talk about crowded, and the music is crowded, too. Real crowded... but it works. Think: "Subway after a football game crowded," or "Mingus Big Band crowded." The nonet is a small big band that wants to behave like a big small band, so when it gets rolling and all nine pieces try to turn the corner at once (listen to "Good Bait"), it comes nigh to spilling into the street. There's so much energy present, and the power of the whole group blowing at once is daunting and impressive. Steve Slagle on alto is a great foil for Lovano, and there are some really good solos by baritone Scott Robinson. In the midst of the melee don't overlook the group's rhythmic inspiration, which is provided by pianist John Hicks and drummer Lewis Nash. Lovano is a powerful leader in any context, but I've always felt he sounds most at home when leading a big group like this one.