MILLHEIM - Joe Lovano and Judi Silvano are very busy, accomplished and devoted jazz musicians. Lovano's most recent offering, "Bird Songs," has been nominated for a Grammy. They have separate careers, but somehow manage to work in a life together, too.
The performers will bring that chemistry and a few of their friends to the Elk Creek Cafe and Aleworks, 100 W. Main St., from 8:30 to 11 p.m. Dec. 30.
The Sun-Gazette was lucky to catch up with them the morning they left for Slovenia, as they packed and had their coffee. Silvano began the interview and Lovano joined us later.
APRIL LINE: You're both really ambitious. Joe with 22 albums, and Judi with a performing, composing and teaching career for 25 years? How did the two of you find time to get together?
JUDI SILVANO: We met in N.Y. in 1980. The reason that we make time and find a way is that we're so motivated and we feel this is what we should be doing in our lives. And that we should continue studying. You learn when you're an artist, it's not a 9-to-5 job. There's a lot of self-motivation. We've found a way to support each other, in writing the music. Sometimes I'm support, sometimes Joe's supporting me.
AL: What kinds of things do you do together?
JS: Last weekend we were in D.C. Sonny Rollins, one of Joe's idols, was honored by the President and Mrs. Obama, in the Kennedy Center Honors*, and it was an amazing, encouraging scene. There were a lot of people in the arts, but specifically supporting jazz. We went to two luncheons, a black tie dinner, then a big concert. All in two days - it was a whirlwind. We had to get right back. You find a way when you love what you do.
AL: So you started out as a dancer?
JS: I didn't really start as a dancer, truthfully. I started out doing everything. Because when I was young, I did love to dance, and I showed a proclivity for music. I studied flute, took dance lessons, was in the marching band, I did art, pottery, the Girl Scouts. I still have some paintings and a pottery dog. You know, when you start out in early education learning the power and the thrill of being able to create something, you find a lot of gratification internally.
AL: Any favorite musical projects?
JS: An artist has to be fully immersed in whatever project she's working on at the moment. It's very difficult. As I get a little older, I have some perspective. I don't feel like I'm old enough now to just pick one. Joe and I met in 1980, and we were doing a music and dance improv concert, but didn't know each other yet. At the last minute, he got a job that paid some money, so he had to take it. So one of his friends, who is going to be playing this concert with us in Millheim, Michael Bocien, filled in. I was primarily a dancer at that time, I'd stopped singing. We were improvising. I felt the impulse to sing and I also brought my flute. Michael and I hit it off really well. He said, "I gotta take you to meet this guy Joe Lovano." Michael took me to Joe's loft on 23rd Street in Chelsea. Joe was sitting on a stool in the middle of a big rug. The three of us created some music in the moment. That's one of my favorite moments.
AL: Is it difficult to balance your individual careers plus your relationship?
JOE LOVANO: No. It's not really difficult. The sun comes up every day and you live in the blessed world of music, so things happen. You just carry on, move from one to the next. Each situation fuels your ideas for the next.
AL: I saw the picture of you playing drums on your website, do you perform on the drums, too, or do you tinker?
JL: No, I don't tinker on anything. I've played drums since I was a kid. I've recorded quite a few things and I play drums with all of my students. And I've played with some of the greatest drummers in the history of jazz music. Music is a beautiful world and your expression on whatever instrument you love to play and execute ideas on is a very serious matter. I love to play drums.
AL: What can folks expect from your show together?
JL: Well, when they come and hear us, we're hopefully going to take them into a world they haven't been to before. We're going to be playing a lot of original compositions, as well as a lot of very famous songs - our own interpretations of them. That's what jazz music is about. It's about listening to the individual players. People will come hear Judi Silvano and Joe Lovano, and the way we interact and play as an ensemble is a very creative exploration of music.
AL: You're both in the middle of a tour now, yes?
JL: I live on an international touring basis all my life. So, I'm touring with all different groups of my own and playing as a guest with others, but tomorrow Judi and I are going to Slovenia to play in collaboration with Michael Benning, who did all the orchestrations for one of Judi's albums. Next week, Michael is arranging some of my tunes and Judi's tunes and a few standards to play with a radio big band in Lupiano.
*The Kennedy Center Honors will air on Dec. 27 on CBS.