Charles Lloyd Quartet

Wild Man Dance
(Blue Note)

During his 25 years with the ECM imprint, saxophonist Charles Lloyd recorded 16 albums with various assemblages. Now he’s back with the Blue Note label after parting ways in the mid-1980s. And his music has deviated, as well. Wild Man Dance is a formidable six-movement suite of loosely organized, often-prayerful, metaphysical music performed by his expanded quartet. The piece was commissioned for the 10th anniversary of Jazztopad, a popular jazz festival in Wrocklaw, Poland.

Lloyd has always sought new sounds, often incorporating ethnic musicians into his groups. Here, Greek lyra virtuoso Sokratis Sinopoulos and Hungarian cimbalom player Miklós Lukács add impassioned, exotic textures. Each string instrument leaves a distinct sonic footprint, as the lyra is bowed, the cimbalom hammered. On Wild Man Dance, Sinopoulos and Lukács solo with surprising abandon, adding vivid background colors to Lloyd’s excellent new rhythm section of pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Gerald Cleaver.

Lloyd’s full-toned tenor remains poignant, poetic and ultra-expressive. With an array of tone colors at his disposal, he dives headlong into this pulsating music via extended improvisations that allude to John Coltrane’s transcendent Impulse fare circa A Love Supreme and Crescent.

Some movements, such as the opening, Eastern-flavored “Flying Over the Odra Valley,” seem to have no written themes. The kinetic energy of the ensemble utilizes the quiet opening rubato to expound, extrapolate and eventually rock the house. Obviously, the musicians were pumped for this performance. “River” opens with Clayton’s cascading solo which evolves into a repeated motif played in unison by tenor and lyra. The track is the most straightahead piece here, with inspired solos and interplay over an earthy minor blues. The suite wraps up with “Wild Man Dance,” a sprawling 15-minute piece that begins as a piano lullaby and twists into a full-band tour de force. Lloyd may be an elder, but his energy level, instrumental prowess and compositional abilities are at an apex. —James Rozzi

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