thu 13/05/2021

Album: Charles Lloyd & the Marvels - Tone Poem | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Charles Lloyd & the Marvels - Tone Poem

Album: Charles Lloyd & the Marvels - Tone Poem

Meditative, melodic beauty from Memphis jazz master

Charles Lloyd is too graciously, fully alive to set in iconic aspic, his latest golden era still in mid-flow aged 82, when his surviving sax peers, Sonny Rollins and Wayne Shorter, can no longer blow. The worlds he’s passed through beyond jazz indicate his broad curiosity and importance.

Charles Lloyd is too graciously, fully alive to set in iconic aspic, his latest golden era still in mid-flow aged 82, when his surviving sax peers, Sonny Rollins and Wayne Shorter, can no longer blow. The worlds he’s passed through beyond jazz indicate his broad curiosity and importance. Lloyd knew Elvis when he was a truck-driver, dropped in on Dylan and The Band’s basement sessions, played with Howlin’ Wolf and the Beach Boys. He was on Fillmore rock bills before Miles, breaking down jazz’s walls.

This third album with his occasional, Americana-leaning outfit the Marvels accordingly encompasses Leonard Cohen and Ornette Coleman. It’s egoless, healing music, rhythmically attuned to the Transcendental Meditation Lloyd withdrew into the wilderness to practise through much of the ‘70s, while also sitting on some celestial back-porch with the slow-motion country-bop of “Peace”. On “Ramblin’”, too, Greg Leisz’s pedal steel gives night-train hoots, Bill Frisell’s blues guitar sparks, and Eric Harland provides hip-hop beats hinting at New Orleans, Lloyd the former Wolf sideman melding R&B and something freer, in what becomes hippie road music.

Cohen’s “Anthem” similarly touches country-folk roots, as well as the spiritual concerns and capacity for internal retreat which writer and performer share. It resembles the Marvels’ version of “Shenandoah” on their debut I Long To See You (2016), finding the North American verities in Cohen’s Jewish prophetic cries. The album’s title is justified here. If Miles’ muted trumpet defined haunted, noir romance, Lloyd’s tone is a salve painlessly piercing the soul, mountain-stream clear as it holds to the melody’s heart.

“Dismal Swamp”, a new Lloyd tune he’s been honing live recently, belies its title with breezy mid-‘60s pop, his flute bird-like as it dips and soars, pedal-steel honks the only swampiness here. “Tone Poem” finds Lloyd romantically questing down a deep, narrow ravine of thought almost alone at first before gaining softer ground with the band, while on “Monk’s Mood” he surfs the Marvels’ waves without ever crashing.

Gábor Szabó’s “Lady Gabor” goes back to his and Lloyd’s formative time with the Chico Hamilton Quintet, and their album Passin’ Thru (1962). Dancing, staccato phrases become fluent launch-pads, Lloyd’s liquid jabs of flute dissolving into Frisell’s phased psychedelia, before the leader’s final, lovely envoi.

Lloyd’s 2015 switch from ECM to Blue Note was accompanied on previous albums by guest stars such as Willie Nelson, Norah Jones, fellow Memphian Booker T and, on Vanished Gardens, a full-blown collaboration with Lucinda Williams, the label’s artful modern boss Don Was maybe cluing the public into his signing’s status. This double-album lets you float in Lloyd and his Marvels alone, set adrift in idiosyncratic, meditative bliss.

Lloyd’s tone is a salve painlessly piercing the soul, mountain-stream clear as it holds to the melody’s heart

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