by Ian Mann
October 17, 2008
A value for money double CD compilation featuring the best of Lloyd's late sixties output.
This double CD of saxophonist Lloyd’s sixties output for Atlantic comes hot on the heels of the similarly packaged Keith Jarrett “Atlantic Years” anthology “Somewhere Before” released earlier this year.
Like it’s predecessor this is a value for money package containing some great music and with informative sleeve notes by “Jazzwise” editor Jon Newey putting the material into context.
Lloyd’s sixties group enjoyed a popular following hardly conceivable for a jazz act these days. Their crossover appeal saw them playing rock venues such as San Francisco’ s famous Fillmore in addition to the Monterey Jazz Festival. Lloyd’s young band were embraced by the burgeoning hippy movement and in jazz terms their albums sold by the truckload. However much of the material to be heard here has been unavailable now for many years and it’s good to have it back.
This compilation draws on both studio and concert recordings. In many ways it is of it’s time with the hippy trappings of pretentious, multi part song titles and with a general air of beards, kaftans and marijuana never far away. Nevertheless with musicians of the calibre of Lloyd, Keith Jarrett (piano), Cecil McBee (bass) and Jack De Johnette (drums) much of the music still stands up and there is some bravura playing from the whole group. Jarrett and DeJohnette subsequently enjoyed stints with Miles Davis before becoming major league jazz stars in their own right but it was their tenure with Lloyd that really kick started their careers. They still play together today as part of Jarrett’s acclaimed “Standards” trio.
The journey begins in 1966 with “Autumn Sequence” taken from the original “Dream Weaver” album. A brief prelude featuring Lloyd on flute leads into the group’s take on the standard “Autumn Leaves” with Lloyd still on flute. Jarrett was simply bursting with ideas at this time and he provides the first of many excellent solos to be heard over the course of the compilation. McBee is also featured to good effect alongside Lloyd’s ghostly flute flutterings.
There is something of the questing spirit of John Coltrane about Lloyd’s music, a point emphasised when he switches to tenor for the two part “Dream Weaver” itself. The title for the first part “Meditation” could have come from Coltrane himself and owes something to his brooding style. The second, the hypnotic “Dervish Dance” draws from Arabic and/or Indian influences. Lloyd’s unusual tone pre-empts the Tibetan oboe he was to deploy in later years. Jarrett excels again, exploring the full tonal capabilities of the keyboard.
Also from “Dream Weaver” is the ballad “Love Ship”, ushered in by Lloyd’s passionate tenor but largely a feature for the ever inventive Jarrett.
The Lloyd group drew from many sources and “Sombrero Sam”, the final selection from the original “Dream Weaver”, is a joyous Latin romp that was to become something of a stage favourite and was even released as a single. Lloyd is back on flute and there is a real exuberance to Jarrett’s playing as DeJohnette conjures up a forest of percussion behind him.
“Forest Flower”, another two part composition comes from the group’s appearance at the Monterey Jazz Festival in September 1966. One of Lloyd’s most enduring compositions the two parts “Sunrise” and “Sunset” segue seamlessly into each other. The leader solos expressively and expansively on tenor, with additional features for Jarrett (at one point deploying his instrument’s innards to crowd pleasing effect) and DeJohnette.
“Sorcery” comes from the pen of Jarrett and is a studio track also recorded for the “Forest Flower” album. Insistent and hypnotic it features Lloyd on flute, dancing above the rhythmic cauldron bubbling below.
From the album “Charles Lloyd In Europe” comes “Little Wahid’s Day” recorded live in Oslo in October 1966. Lloyd appears on flute but there are memorable contributions from all four musicians on this atmospheric piece.
McBee’s “Wilpan’s”, recorded at the same venue and released on the album “The Flowering Of Charles Lloyd” is a more straight ahead blowing vehicle with a powerful solo from Lloyd on tenor.
McBee also allows himself some time in the spotlight, something of a last hurrah from him as he was to quit the band shortly afterwards.
McBee’s replacement was Ron McClure, a capable player who quickly filled the breach. McClure appears throughout Disc Two of this compilation opening his account on “Tribal Dance” from the 1967 album “Love In”. The album title says it all. By this time the Lloyd quartet had been dubbed “the first psychedelic jazz group” and were enthusiastically embraced by the underground movement.
“Love In” was recorded in January 1967 at the Fillmore in San Francisco and opens with the modal “Tribal Dance” building from McClure’s bass pulse through Lloyd’ s thoughtful yet powerful tenor solo and De Johnette’s volcanic drumming. Jarrett solos expansively and theatrically and there is dynamic dialogue between him and DeJohnette.
The brief “Temple Bells” features Lloyd on flute as Jarrett and DeJohnette shimmer behind him.
Also flute led, “Love In” itself is joyous and atypically funky, owing something to the soul jazz of the day.
The two parter “Memphis Dues Again/Island Blues” name checks Lloyd’s home town whilst simultaneously nodding in the direction of Bob Dylan. Opening with a lengthy passage for Lloyd’s impassioned unaccompanied tenor the group eventually join in for a blues inspired romp that somehow acknowledges the influences of both Ornette Coleman and gospel music. The crowd love it.
The Fillmore concerts provided enough material for a second album release, “The Journey Within”.
The title track is a lengthy eastern flavoured piece featuring Lloyd on flute. Resembling some kind of incantation this piece has perhaps dated more than some of the other pieces on this collection. The chanting background vocals, the use of bells and DeJohnette’s appearance on shenai flute all make the piece rather of it’s time but it does have a kind of primeval hypnotic quality.
“Lonesome Child” is another two part offering with the opening fanfare of “Song” (featuring Jarrett on soprano sax dovetailing with Lloyd) quickly careering off into a coruscating free form workout. McClure is later featured on brooding arco bass as DeJohnette chatters around him utilising various shakers as well as kit drums. It’s probably the most “out” track on the collection.
“Love Song to A Baby” was recorded at the Tallinn Jazz festival in Estonia in 1967. Lloyd’s group was the first U.S. Jazz outfit to visit the Soviet Union for several years. The piece opens with Jarrett reaching inside the piano to play the strings before McClures bass pulse ushers in the rest of the band. “Love Song” features a na?ve, waltz like melody that provides the springboard for a dazzling solo from Jarrett, followed by Lloyd on flute. De Johnette’s ever inventive drums and percussion add greatly to the colour of the piece and McClure’s sturdy bass holds it all together.
Finally comes “Voice In The Night” recorded live in New York City in 1968 for the album “Soundtrack”. Lloyd was to revisit the tune years when it became the title track of his 1998 ECM album. A tender, searching ballad this live version is notable for the fragile beauty of Jarrett’s solo and the vulnerability of Lloyd’s unaccompanied tenor.
Always a spiritual man Lloyd disappeared from the public eye for much of the seventies to follow his beliefs. He returned briefly in 1982 to record a live album, “A Night In Copenhagen” for Blue Note with a band including pianist Michel Petrucciani and bassist Palle Danielsson.
It was to be a further seven years before Lloyd signed to ECM and began to record a regular basis once more. Lloyd’s ECM output is more subdued and considered than this early work and fits in well with the ECM house style. The label seems to be a natural home for him in his later years.
Lloyd turns seventy this year so the appearance of this compilation is wholly appropriate. The late sixties were heady times and Lloyd (and arguably this applies to Jarrett and DeJohnette also) was never to play with quite such abandon and exuberance again. If certain elements of the music have dated the quality, inventiveness and energy of the playing transcends this. Interestingly Lloyd has revisited some of these tunes over the years (among them “Voice In the Night” and Forest Flower”), subtly updating them and removing the period trappings.
These are exciting performances and highly recommended to Lloyd fans who don’t have the material already. Jarrett fans who came on board later in his career will also relish the chance to hear this joyous, unfettered early incarnation of their hero.blog comments powered by Disqus