From his work in the '80s and early '90s with small combos led by boundary-pushers Paul Motian and John Scofield to his successful career as a solo artist and group leader in more recent years, Lovano has distinguished himself as a broad-minded jazz composer and improviser of depth, maturity, and inventiveness. For 52nd Street Themes, he assembled a nonet of seasoned players (among them pianist John Hicks, drummer Lewis Nash, and alto saxophonist Steve Slagle) and a book of classic tunes (by Billy Strayhorn, Tadd Dameron, Thelonious Monk, and Miles Davis) freshly arranged by old-school saxophonist Willie "Face" Smith. Unlike many similar tributes to the swing and bop eras that put the Street on the map, Lovano's effort thoroughly convinces. Though his tunes swing conventionally, there's an openness to the arrangements that gives the music a less codified or museumlike feel than that of, say, the stuffy Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Lovano's stunning evocations do more than merely preserve the songs and styles of jazz past; they bring them back to life.