Recorded live in Santa Barbara in mid-2004, Sangam continues in the spirit of Which Way Is East?, Charles Lloyd’s duo outing with Billy Higgins, recorded shortly before the drummer’s death in 2001. To fill the void left by Higgins, Lloyd recruits not one but two percussionists: the great Zakir Hussain on tabla and Eric Harland (of Lloyd’s current quartet) on drums. The trio’s textural palette is broad, with Lloyd dividing his time between taragato, saxes and flutes (and piano on the brief “Nataraj”). The music is free-flowing and unrehearsed, meditative but replete with rhythmic energy. Audio seems only to hint at the magic of this offbeat encounter. (Lloyd’s promo DVD contains 12 minutes of video, leaving one to wonder about the rest.)
Most of the session finds Lloyd blowing sax or flute over propulsive yet airy grooves. Sometimes Hussain and Harland sound like one musician; other times they diverge, matching wits and contrasting timbres. On “Guman” they do even more—Harland plays a muted piano bass line and Hussain sings. Lloyd is the driving force, however, quoting “Everything Happens to Me” during “Lady in the Harbor” and spilling free-jazz tenor lines on “Tales of Rumi” and “Hymne to the Mother.” His flute on “Little Peace,” from 1994’s All My Relations, is a gift.