Friday, January 28, 2011

The Long Night's Journey Into Music

Charles Lloyd and his New Quartet (plus a very special guest) played at Crowell Concert Hall on the campus of Wesleyan University tonight (Friday January 28, 2011.)  Instead of a review, here are some impressions of the evening.

Eric Harland is a excellent drummer, creative and intuitive plus he wears great glasses as well as snappy sneakers.

Reuben Rogers played with great virtuosity, especially his work with the bow but, due to the murky sound conditions of Crowell Hall (better in the back, I'm told) he all but disappeared during the louder passages. Still, his unaccompanied solos were wonderfully musical.

Finally got to see and hear Jason Moran and he did not disappoint.  There were moments of pure melodic beauty and others where his intensity approached that of Cecil Taylor.

Listening to Mr. Lloyd tonight and then to his 1967 recording of "Forest Flower", his style of playing has not changed very much - his airy phrases, his tendency to play circular lines (probably learned from the blues players he heard while growing up in Memphis) and his powerful flute styling.  He, also, knows how to put a band together and give them plenty of room to shine.

The special guest was Alicia Moran Hall, wife of Jason.  She's a mezzo-soprano with a wonderful range  and was invited onstage to sing "Go Down, Moses."  O my, how she plumbed the depths of the material and fit her voice around Lloyd's expressive tenor sax playing. 

The Quartet played with great spirit throughout and, during the quieter moments, you could pick out all the instruments without any strain.  There was one piece that was introduced by a lovely piano solo, then, one by one the rest of the ensemble added their voices including Mr. Lloyd.  The way the music was building, the insistent drumming and pedal-point bass, it sounded (to these ears) like Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" but, then a quick shift and into the melody of "Caroline, No."  It was one of several times during the program that I laughed at the playfulness.

"Lift Every Voice and Sing" is a stirring anthem, with nary a bomb bursting.  Mr. Lloyd, ever the teacher, made the audience stand.  It was worth it especially the interweaving of Ms. Moran's voice, Mr, Moran's piano and the forthright tenor saxophone. 

Finally, I had the pleasure of meeting Tom Reney, the host of "Jazz A La Mode" heard weeknights on WFCR-FM in Amherst, MA.  I've been listening to Tom since he began in 1984, checking out his first hour (8 p.m.) on my drive home from work (in the days I closed my shop at 8.)  For those who have never heard his program, click here and find out more. 

After a week of snow, ice and cold, the concert was like manna from heaven. Perfect, not truly, but definitely a joy to behold. 

Here's a look at the group from a 2009 concert.

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