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September 2008

Charles Lloyd Quartet
Rabo De Nube
ECM Records

Since returning to music in 1989 Charles Lloyd has made 13 recordings for ECM. They constitute one of the most important bodies of work in jazz of the last two decades. The newest, Rabo De Nube, is Lloyd’s first live quartet recording for ECM, his first album with Jason Moran, and one of his finest achievements.

Lloyd’s ensembles have always included very strong pianists like Keith Jarrett, Michel Petrucciani, Bobo Stenson and Brad Mehldau. None have been as creatively volatile as Moran, whose percussive densities might seem incompatible with Lloyd’s fluid, often tender tenor saxophone. But Lloyd makes Moran more lyrical, and Moran makes Lloyd wilder.

It is precisely wild lyricism that this concert (recorded in Basel, Switzerland in April 2007) is about. The opening “Prometheus” introduces the aesthetic. Lloyd, alone and possessed, oscillates upward, and is carried on the swirling polyrhythms of bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland; Moran enters and slams block chords of a separate song and then fixates on shattering trills; Rogers, suddenly out front, cries an arco bass lament that flows into an evolving Moran solo (quiet to loud, slow to quick, spare to complex) followed by a patient, detailed Harland drum revelation. Each piece is many things.

Lloyd recorded Silvio Rodriguez’s title track once before, in 2002, on Lift Every Voice. There its yearning poignance was gentle and contained. On the live 2007 version, Moran begins softly too but his passion builds and spills over, and Lloyd’s rendering of the aching melody—loose, searching, sometimes tentative—is soul-baring exposure in the living moment.

Lloyd should make more live albums, and more albums with Jason Moran.

Originally published in September 2008
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