For me, Lloyd always evokes the mid-'60s, when he recorded the Atlantic albums Forest Flower, Live at the Fillmore in San Francisco and Charles Lloyd in the Soviet Union. Periods of dormancy and re-emergence have occurred in the tenor saxophonist's career since then, and this album-his fourth for ECM in the '90s-suggests a venerable, serene spiritual master conveying wisdom and blessings on his congregation.
The performances are with Lloyd's regular quartet: pianist Bobo Stenson, bassist Anders Jormin and drummer Billy Hart. The opening "Tales of Sumi" begins like an incantation, Stenson plucking strings and noodling spare lines reminiscent of the late Gil Evans on "La Nevada" and Lloyd seeping in with long notes, alternate fingerings and pentatonic scales. On "How Can I Tell You," which recalls Billy Eckstine's "I Want to Talk About You," Lloyd is full of sweeping runs and plunging lines in the manner of the late John Coltrane (his main influence). On "Nachiketa's Lament" he plays Tibetan oboe.
With the past, repertory music and hard bop (and the Miles Davis quintet style) of the '60s heavily in vogue today, Lloyd stands apart despite his evocation of earlier years. It seems to me that, in him, we are hearing continuity and personal development rather than nostalgia, imitation and formula. A fine album.