The American saxophonist Charles Lloyd was once treated as an early-fusion lightweight by aficionados, but not any more. Lloyd came under ECM's wing in the 1990s, and is now known as a moving ballad player with a uniquely gauzy and vulnerable sound, but with rougher free-jazz diversions, as an open-handed bandleader (currently with his strongest quartet, including pianist Jason Moran) and a fine composer. On a beautiful account of I Fall in Love Too Easily, Lloyd's solo glows with hollow-toned, scurrying phrasing against Reuben Rogers's supportive bass.
When Charles Lloyd showcased his quartet in a live setting on 2008's Rabo de Nube, it was one of the more exciting, free-flowing dates of that year. It was physical, full of intense engagement and fiery energy. On that date, he performed a number of tunes he'd recorded before, along with new compositions. Mirror, recorded with the same band -- drummer Eric Harland, pianist Jason Moran, and bassist Reuben Rogers -- in a Santa Barbara studio, is, as the title suggests, a mirror image of the previous outing.
When veteran sax-man Charles Lloyd joined forces with pianist Jason Moran, bassist Reuben Rogers, and drummer Eric Harland, an ensuing live performance became one of the finest jazz albums of 2008. Rabo de Nube was simultaneously sprawling and graceful, exploring the tensions that exist between soft and loud, fast and slow, and the fact there is no reason for new jazz pieces to be assembled symmetrically anymore. Lloyd himself would alternate between his tenor, the flute, and the tarogato.
It’s been a long, strange trip for Charles Lloyd – but the journey’s far from over. Daniel Spicer 2010 Saxophonist Charles Lloyd has always operated at a tangent to the jazz mainstream. Coming to prominence in the 1960s with a progressive yet accessible mix of Coltrane-influenced post-bop and sunny soul-jazz, his quartet with drummer Jack DeJohnette, pianist Keith Jarrett and bassist Cecil McBee achieved unlikely fame with the hippie counterculture and scored a massive hit with their 1966 album Forest Flower.
As the title of Charles Lloyd's 14th ECM release implies, Mirror largely reflects back. Revisiting a handful of tunes he's previously recorded for the label over the past two decades, the Golden State saxophonist and composer offers fresh interpretations of the title track, "Go Down Moses," "Desolation Sound," "The Water Is Wide," and "Lift Every Voice and Sing" with his new quartet featuring superstar Jason Moran on piano and astonishing drummer Eric Harland (both Houston natives) and bassist Reuben Rogers. Lloyd continues channeling the restless spirit of John Coltrane, but he also unabashedly re-creates the yearning sound of Trane's gentle side.