Monday, March 15, 2021

Charles Lloyd and The Marvels - Tone Poem (Blue Note Records, 2021)

Never one to rest on his laurels, saxophonist and flutist Charles Lloyd's new album is played with his group The Marvels, consisting of Bill Frisell on guitar, Greg Leisz on pedal steel guitar, Reuben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums. This is a veteran and experienced group ready to take on anything and Lloyd has designed a wide ranging set of original and cover songs for them to play. They open by playing two songs by Ornette Coleman, with "Peace" developing the melody with reverence and subtlety, as soft drums and guitar provide a firm cushion from which the leader's horn can work, returning to hint at the melody as the Lloyd returns to bask in their warmth and complete the circuit. Coleman's "Ramblin'" gets a little more feisty with waves of pedal steel and bass giving Lloyd and Frisell room to move and improvise widely. Lloyd's saxophone gets raw and free at times, his playing energetic and engaged, as is the guitarist who responds with snarls and gasps that get mileage. The group improvisation is spot on, with two guitarists of a different hue providing flavor along side crisp bass and drum accompaniment and saxophone soloing. "Dismal Swamp" sees Lloyd turning to flute and playing with a light and nimble manner amid spacious bass and drums. The music is framed by the steel guitar, painting around the edges, until Lloyd lays out leaving the two guitarists to design a decidedly un-dismal improvisation in conjunction with their bass and drum colleagues. Lloyd returns to the conversation with a gentle and almost Zen like approach to the instrument that carries the group through to the conclusion of the track. The track "Lady Gabor" is presumably included as a nod to his late friend and colleague Gabor Szabo, and is also taken by Lloyd on flute with shimmering reminiscence of times past, but also using what was learned to carve a lean and supple theme centered on flute and percussion. The music is focused and rhythmically complex, incorporating the guitars into the overall weave of the performance, with the leader completely engaged and focused in the moment in this lengthy and slowly unfolding piece of music. This album worked well and it is particularly interesting to see their development over the course of three albums. Lloyd remains a seeker, refusing to take the easy way out, always looking for new avenues to express his music. Tone Poem -

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