The Flowering of Charles Lloyd

Charles Lloyd’s latest release, recorded live in 2007 at the Theater Basel in Switzerland, recalls his early live recording, Forest Flower: Charles Lloyd at Monterey. That LP introduced those of a certain generation to the saxophonist-flutist and jazz in general. The similarities between the two recordings, though separated by some 40 years, are remarkable. Both feature its astute leader backed by strong, youthful sidemen destined for great things. Both feature Lloyd’s wise, inquiring sound, painting him as a something of a musical monk and seeker of truth whose explorations come from a background in the blues. Both are satisfying in their wordly wisdom and cosmic insight. All this isn’t to suggest that Lloyd’s sound hasn’t evolved (see “seeker” above) but does point out that Lloyd has consistently pushed ahead from a base of experience, a base that has deepened and been enriched as the years pass. When Lloyd appeared at Monterey in 1966 he was a relative unknown in the larger musical world with a waiting audience. Today he’s a major presence, a musician whose next statement is anticipated, someone who stands aside from the mainstream even as he respects certain traditions. In this sense, Rabo de Nube doesn’t disappoint. Indeed, it’s as solid as any of Lloyd’s work of the last several years while proving that age—he turns 70 this year–has nothing on him. As Lloyd makes more musical revelation, his pursuit of truth and beauty accelerates (reviewer notes an intense desire to use “aging fine wine” image). There are some familiar Lloyd themes here that seem to travel under new names, vehicles in which he travels to territory just beyond places he has gone before. His work on flute and tarogato is especially ambitious, often carrying rhythmic overtones that make something of the times. His sense of spirit and reverence remain, as well as the blues roots he developed back in Memphis with Phineas Newborn and others. It remains to be seen if pianist Jason Moran, bassist Ruben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland ascend to the heights of Forest Flower’s Keith Jarrett, Cecil McBee and Jack DeJohnette. As did that earlier rhythm section, Moran, Rogers and Harland, as distinguished and unique as they are, work in Lloyd’s shadow. I occasionally found myself wishing for past Lloyd associates Bobo Stenson or Brad Mehldau to provide a more lush and languid contribution that would mesh with Lloyd’s spirituality. But this is a small quibble and Moran’s contrasting style has its advantages, mostly rhythmic. Rabo de Nube marks Lloyd as a consistently satisfying seeker of higher callings, one who himself seems seldom satisfied. Released March, 2008. Highly Recommended.—Cabbage Rabbit

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