Preview Charles Lloyd’s Luminous New Blue Note Album

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Charles Lloyd will release his new album, Passin’ Thru, on Blue Note Records July 14.

(Photo: D. Darr)

Saxophonist Charles Lloyd made a deep impression with critics last year with the release of I Long To See You (Blue Note), an album that marked the debut of his Marvels quartet, featuring guitarist Bill Frisell, pedal-steel player Greg Leisz, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland. The disc placed within the Top 10 Jazz Albums of the Year in the 2016 DownBeat Critics Poll, and Lloyd himself finished third in the Artist of the Year category.

On July 14, the luminary saxophonist, flutist and composer will release his latest Blue Note offering, Passin’ Thru, a live recording featuring his acclaimed New Quartet, with pianist Jason Moran, drummer Eric Harland and returning member bassist Rogers. It’s a cohesive unit that has been refining its sound for the past decade.

The album is a dynamic seven-song collection of Lloyd’s original compositions that span the breadth of the saxophonist’s career and reflect the simpatico of this highly skilled working unit. Take the title track, which was first recorded in 1963, when Lloyd was a member of the Chico Hamilton Quintet. With its throwback Caribbean groove and energized solo section, it evokes a distinctly modern sound while embracing a classic Lloyd aesthetic. You can get a feel for the song’s unique vibe below:

 
Lloyd formed his first quartet in 1965, with pianist Keith Jarrett, bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Jack DeJohnette, and the four-person unit has remained a comfortable setting for the saxophonist ever since. He considers his New Quartet formed a decade ago “a landmark group nonpareil.”

“It’s a small planet, and we are just passing through on our journey to One,” he said. “Every now and then there are important intersections. This quartet with Jason, Reuben and Eric coalesced very organically in April 2007. From the notes of our first concert, I knew that it was a magical formation.”
 
In the summer of 2016, Lloyd reconvened the New Quartet for their first extended tour in several years. Passin’ Thru opens with the first song performed on that tour, “Dream Weaver,” recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival on June 30. The song serves as yet another nod to the past, as it was originally recorded on Lloyd’s first quartet’s 1966 debut album of the same name. The remaining six pieces were drawn from the band’s performance at The Lensic in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on July 29. Lloyd dedicated that concert, as well as this album, to the memory of his dear departed friend Judith McBean (the closing piece “Shiva Dreams” was “a prayer and meditation for her.”)
 
When asked why he chose to reexamine songs from his past on Passin’ Thru, Lloyd responds, “‘Passin’ Thru’ and ‘Dream Weaver’ are among my many children. They left home and came back. I left home and came back. When we visit with each other we find we have more stories to tell. As they have matured, I have too. When I go out now, I bring many more years of experience that I did not have as an idealistic young man.”
 
In describing the relationship between himself and his band mates, Lloyd, a 2015 NEA Jazz Master, puts into perspective his unit’s profound intimacy and understanding, despite each member’s separate musical path. “When we come together as a unit, we find the music and love has only grown deeper,” he says. “The bond of our shared experiences on and off the stage informs and expands the music. A span of 10 years covers a lot of territory, but in the time frame of the Universe, it is a mere nanosecond.” DB



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September 2019
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