Charles Lloyd Quartet
Rabo De Nube
Multi-reedist Charles Lloyd’s first live album in more than 20 years features his new working group: pianist Jason Moran, double-bassist Reuben Rogers, and drummer Eric Harland. At 70 years old, Lloyd has shared the stage with many introspective musicians, and the extent to which the leader’s spirituality is responsible for the analogous sound of his various ECM-recorded groups (1989-present) is immeasurable. Lloyd’s adherence to peaceful doctrine is legendary. “I’ve been gardening in the garden,” Lloyd relayed in the liner notes to his extraordinary, yet long out-of-print comeback album, Montreux ’82. “It is the blossoming of time well spent in meditation.”
The ingredients to Lloyd’s endearing musical offerings may include assets far less mystical. For example, his ability to inspire his sidemen seems to entail a laissez-faire approach shared with bandleader Miles Davis. Also shared with Miles is a heart-wrenching quality relayed by a highly individual sound. Lloyd plays tenor saxophone, alto flute, and tarogato (a decidedly Eastern-sounding single-reed Hungarian instrument) on Rabo De Nube. But his full-toned tenor is his undisputed forte: consistently poetic, ultra-sensitive on ballads, and always poignant, even when navigating breakneck tempi.
The first cut, “Prometheus,” is exemplary of Lloyd’s approach, beginning with the leader’s gorgeous, plaintive opening tenor statement. Eventually, the song develops into an earthy burner courtesy of a rambunctious band that’s half the leader’s age. The title track, by Cuban composer Silvio Rodriguez, is a tender ballad performed to perfection. “Migration of Spirit” recalls Coltrane’s famous 1964 opus “Crescent”- this CD’s most obvious conveyance of the aforementioned spirituality. As the tune opens, Rogers’ beautiful bass statement is joined (seemingly in prayer) by Lloyd’s lyrical tenor. Moran’s piano and Harland’s cymbals then begin to gently color the sound. When time finally kicks in, Moran lays down two-fisted chords that nearly detract from the inherent harmonic openness of the tune. But things wrap up wonderfully with time floating, the band sustaining, and Lloyd wailing over the top preaching, soulfully expounding upon the sacred gospel according to John.
- James Rozzi