CD review: Charles Lloyd/Jason Moran

hagarHagar’s Song
(ECM 372 4550)

The Hagar Suite which lies at the heart of this album begins with Lloyd playing low and dreamy on one of his flutes. Moran joins him on piano, keeping a low underpinning while Lloyd warbles and makes staccato breathes. I am transported by these sounds back to my teens and the hippy 1960s.

For so many of us rock fans in those times, Lloyd was our jazz, his Forest Flower album, recorded live at Monterey Jazz Festival in every serious music-loving hippy’s collection. So, despite all he has done since which has cemented his reputation as a crucial tenor saxophone voice in modern jazz, especially his strong ECM catalogue, he is ever connected for me to that freak flag flying.

And heavens, we need some of that alternative thinking now.

Charles Lloyd and Jason Moran

Charles Lloyd and Jason Moran

Moran is of course, the pianist in Lloyd’s Quartet, but the two of them make some pretty fine music without a rhythm team. And The Hagar Suite, though it is the most adventurous part of the record, with lots of free improvisation in it, is just one section of an album that reaches far back to Ellington, to Gershwin, even to Earl Hines. And not so far back to Bob Dylan and The Beach Boys.

The album opens with Billy Strayhorn’s Pretty Girl and that delicate tone of Lloyd’s tenor is the perfect introduction to remind us to step off the corporate conveyor, push our toes into the virtual Californian sand and kick back for some counter-cultural meditation.

An hour later, having had a fine time with Bess, You Is My Woman Now, Carl Fischer’s You’ve Changed and Rosetta (Moran does a lovely Tatumesque thing here), Lloyd and Moran are picking their way through gorgeous readings of I Shall Be Released and Brian Wilson’s God Only Knows, and there is good reason for this choice. Lloyd played with the Beach Boys quite a bit. So, I end up where my mind first took me – California in the 1960s.

Duo albums have a special quality – as intimate as a jazz conversation can get. This is a very fine example.

  • The Charles Lloyd Quartet with guest Maria Farantouri will be appearing at the Barbican in London on 28 April. Go here to book your seats.


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