Saturday, July 22, 2017

Charles Lloyd New Quartet - Passin' Thru (Blue Note, 2017)

Tenor saxophonist and flutist Charles Lloyd has had a long career filled with highlights, from his popular early recordings on Atlantic that led to him playing psychedelic ballrooms in the late sixties to a lengthy purple patch with ECM in the nineties and oughties. Now on Blue Note, he reconvenes the New Quartet, featuring Jason Moran on piano, Ruben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums. The opening track, a near eighteen minute version of the Lloyd classic "Dream Weaver" was recorded live at last year's Montreux Jazz Festival, and it encapsulates the leader's musical history in a suite-like performance that includes elements of blues, spirituals and more open-ended improvisational elements. The album's remaining tracks were recorded in Sante Fe beginning with "Part 5, Ruminations" which has a gentle and meditative melody that develops into a thoughtful and gentle improvisation which allows the rhythm section maximum freedom while Lloyd swoops and sways around them, building a thoughtful and lilting statement all his own. "Nu Blues" is a more recent composition, one that hints at the rhythm and blues of his hometown of Memphis, while encouraging the music to move into a little more intense state of being with crisp rhythmic playing and full throated saxophone soloing. There is a wistful, balladic feeling to "How Can I Tell You" and the band paces itself nicely developing a soft and patient performance that rides on the thermals of air in an organic improvisation that moves with the grain of the music. "Tagore On The Delta" opens up the throttle, making the most of the availability of space and time, taking a composition out of his past, and moving it completely into the moment with excellent piano playing and elastic bass and drums making an excellent construct. Lloyd's music has always had a deeply spiritual quality to it, and this is firmly demonstrated on the concluding piece "Shiva Prayer" which develops a hard won serenity showing all that he has learned during his long and successful career. He carries the rest of his band with genial authority, completely at home with the younger musicians who continually respect and challenge him. Passin' Thru -

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