The veteran saxophonist has a new band, combining his long-term bass and drums team of Reuben Rogers and Eric Harland with two guitarists, Bill Frisell and Greg Leisz in place of a pianist – in fact, when Frisell is picking an improvisatory line and Leisz is laying down a shimmering pedal steel chord they are very much echoing the function of a piano in the band.
The tunes here concentrate on American traditional, folk and gospel interspersed with Lloyd originals both old and new. It’s lovely to hear Lloyd and Frisell together in one band. Where so many other jazz musicians will restrict their playing of the tune to the head and tail of a piece, these two can be tempted to cycle it with nuanced differences, much as a singer will sing the same verse and chorus with different lyrics.
It’s just what happens on the opener, Bob Dylan’s Masters Of War, on the traditional Shenandoah, a Frisell favourite already as his live trio album East West has shown, on another traditional tune, La Llorona which Lloyd also recorded on his 2009 ECM album Mirror, and on a brief All My Trials. Frisell’s guitar style and Leisz’s use of pedal steel provide all the right Americana sounds and Lloyd’s slightly plaintive tone is perfectly suited to this material. It’s timbral heaven.
Willie Nelson sings Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream and Norah Jones sings You Are So Beautiful which break up the instrumentals nicely. Just listen to the way Lloyd takes the tune on from Jones’ two verses, and how his tone and Nelson’s share that balance of strength and vulnerability. The closing track is a 16-minute exploration of a powerful new piece called Barche Lamsel which Harland helps through all manner of moods. Earlier we have been south of the border with the saxophonist/flautist’s Sombrero Sam, originally from his ’60s album Dream Weaver.
This is Lloyd’s second album since his return to Blue Note Records and it’s an absolute triumph. An early entry into the best of 2016 list, I reckon.
Categories: CD review