Release Date: Feb 26, 2013
Record label: ECM
Genre(s): Jazz, Post-Bop, Avant-Garde Jazz, Saxophone Jazz
Hagar's Song is a deeply intimate, intuitive offering from saxophonist Charles Lloyd and pianist Jason Moran, who has been a key part of Lloyd's quartet since 2008. The program is a collection of standards and originals, as well as one thorny, angular free improvisation ("Pictogram"). The title piece is a five-part suite dedicated to the memory of Lloyd's great-great grandmother, who spent most of her life as a slave.
Jazz success stories, at least the modern kind that have occurred since the rise of rock music in the 1960s, tend to be strange. How does someone playing intricate improvised instrumental music on a trumpet or saxophone really blow up in the public eye in the modern age? There’s usually a hook. So, Wynton Marsalis was just a great player, but he also was nominated for Grammys in both classical music and jazz in the same year.
Saxophonist Charles Lloyd, soon to be 75, here gives an intimate closeup of his warm relationship with brilliant pianist Jason Moran – and with his enslaved great-great-grandmother, who names the album through Lloyd's suite in her memory. Evergreens such as Ellington's Mood Indigo mingle with Dylan's I Shall Be Released and the Beach Boys' God Only Knows – the latter choice reflecting Lloyd's California sojourns with the Beach Boys in the 1970s. There are a few uptempo passages here – including a briskly striding Mood Indigo and a boogieing Rosetta – where Lloyd sounds unsettled by the momentum and the absence of a rhythm section to fill gaps, and uneasily resorts to whirring repeated figures and the same upwardly barrelling run to a resolving note.