October 28, 2007
by Randy Treece
Those fans who have been attuned to Charles Lloyd's spiritual and creative journey for nearly a half century, a musical journey akin to John Coltrane's, and attended Sunday's show, were fabulously treated to a spiritual communion with this music icon and his very accomplished musical mates, Reuben Rogers, on bass, and Eric Harland, on drums. And we were sworn not to tell those who are "sleeping walking through the night." "This is between us," Lloyd mused. The only disappointment of the evening was the half-filled auditorium, but that disappointment did not mute the soulful, divine, and inspirational music that cascaded throughout the nearly two-hour concert. And, as you could imagine, there were some grand artistic surprises.
Though previously billed as a trio, omnipresent on the stage was a grand piano. Would there be quartet? Would a Keith Jarrett-like pianist sit in? As we attentively watched the procession of musicians onto the stage, there were only three souls. But the riddle was readily resolved when Lloyd sat meditatively at the piano poised to entreat our senses with wonder, and he did just that. The first song was a wonderfully disarming display of Lloyd's vast musical ability as he played the piano with convincing panache and then regaled us with a poem that had a dozen or more stanzas. Whether memorized or improvised, the recitation was an intellectual and artistic feat unto itself. The prowess of his creativity and intellect was fully revealed from that moment forward.
A double threat on both piano and multiple reed instruments, his sound is distinct and inimitable. The sound is such an institution that no one would dare attempt to emulate its aplomb. There is an overarching beauty, warmth, and contemplative sincerity to his sound even when he is blistering away a torrent of notes and emotions. His music is elegant and reflective, so much so that a listener could easily become submerged in its depth. Although it is complex, adventurous and progressive, the music remains approachable even for the less sophisticated listener, and this is the magnetism of Lloyd and his music. During any of his musical renderings this night, it would be easy to allow your mind to pleasantly drift with the marvelous current of sound that ambulates all around you, but if you indulge this frame of mind too long and forsake the sacred art of listening, you would be denying yourself the excursion of musical ideas that float effortlessly by. To hear Lloyd is to see Lloyd, and vice-a-versa. His slight frame notwithstanding, Lloyd bobs and weaves, rolls and angulates his shoulders, tilts his head sideward, gyrates and sashays about with his instrument in tow as musical ideas erupt from his every fiber. There is power, range, facility, and yes, warmth. As he would explain later, Lloyd wants to commune with the audience, "with the sensitive," in a spiritual way and on his own terms.
Though Lloyd did not speak during the set nor announced his songs, we were not denied the diversity and honesty of his musical prose, and that was probably intended by the master. Titles can get in the way and sometime categorize the artistic sentiment when none is necessary.
The first song lead by Lloyd on the piano was a middle eastern tinged, meditative song supplely supported by an agile rhythm section of Roger on bass and Harland on drums. Harland added vocal coloring to the texture of the piece. Their exchange was palpable. For the remainder of the show, Lloyd picked up his axe and showcased his innate originality. On the next song, which was both powerful and melodic, all three musicians displayed an incomparable grasp of intuitiveness as they integrated their musical contributions seamlessly, and Roger especially shined on his solo.
The third cut had a hint of calypso in which Lloyd fired up his engines and became a perpetual purveyor of musical nuances. Notes swirled and soared higher and higher. Drummer Harland met the challenge with an engaging solo and throughout Rogers was having a blast. I may not be able to tell you what was transpiring in terms of musical theory but I can share with you that the moment was musically soulful as well as joyful.
Next came a ballad that transfigured into a more up tempo song that featured within a drum/bass duet, as the master sanctioned fondly from the wings of the stage. At this juncture in the show, Harland established himself as a tremendously brilliant drummer who was capable of coaxing unheard tonality from his drum kit, poignantly drawing upon different accents, and harnessing diverse poly-rhythms with an astonishing array of techniques. This was not for show but complimentary to the music. Rogers is a rising star in the pantheon of bass players. Some of the best bass players in the land have served admirably in Lloyd's group and Rogers may rise to the top of the heap. His musical statements throughout the concert were equally harmonious and bold.
Turning to both the flute and tenor sax on "Little Peace", Lloyd exhibited a reservoir of creativity which he profusely lavished upon this audience. The triumvirate of Lloyd, Rogers, and Harland unleashed themselves in free expression. We next heard a ballad then followed by a Latin flavored musical brew, later identified by Lloyd, as one of his main stays, "Passing Through". No disappointment there.
The show ended with an encore of Lloyd's legendary hit, "Forrest Flower". At first, the audience thought that we would not hear this composition, when responding to an audience member's request for the song, Lloyd launched into a verbal fusillade, replete with a cannonade of commentaries on such vast subjects as the music industry, life, and even the notion of the original man. The accelerated flow of insights and even some digression was as spontaneous as his musical improvisations. Boy, can one contemplate the vastness of the ponderable notions floating around in his head. We were beguiled by the independence, honesty, and sublime wit of the man. And, when he eventually turned to play Forrest Flower, his current rendition did not disappoint, not one wit, and it was worth the price of admission. It was worth the wait. But you are not suppose to know.
Randy Treece is an avid and ubiquitous fan of jazz music, especially on the local scene. For many years he has contributed jazz artist reviews for "A Place For Jazz "and has written album reviews on request by jazz artists. Randy resides in Albany.