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Charles Lloyd: Jumping the Creek

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On Jumping the Creek, Charles Lloyd continues to refine his approach to the saxophone-smoothing some rough edges, perhaps, but he still hasn’t lost the intensity and sense of adventure that made his work in the 1960s with Cannonball Adderley and his own band so compelling.

Joining Lloyd on this CD are bassist Robert Hurst, drummer Eric Harland and pianist Geri Allen, who has a lovely touch, no doubt, yet she occasionally overindulges a romantic streak. Her introduction to the Jacques Brel ballad “Ne Me Quitte Pas,” for example, is lush nearly to the point of kitsch; Lloyd’s deeply felt but unsentimental reading of the melody saves it. Straight-toned and plain-spoken, the saxophonist’s focused intensity-while never close to being over the top-counters the pianist’s near-mawkishness.

Lloyd is at his best when improvising freely over rubato rhythms, as on “Angel Oak Revisited” and “Song of the Inuit.” That said, some of the record’s best moments come when the rhythm section burns, as on “Canon Perdido” and “Georgia Bright Suite,” which features one of Lloyd’s best-known compositions. In both cases, Allen concentrates on her right hand, a serendipitous choice. Pared down to its essence, her style becomes less dreamy and more incisive.

Lloyd has been essentially criticism-proof for a while now, and for good reason. He’s one of jazz’s great stylists. Allen, Hurst and Harland are all fine players in their own right, but under his direction they coalesce into something special. This is a superb album, and Charles Lloyd gets better with each passing year.