Charles Lloyd – Wild Man Dance
(Blue Note Records, CD review by Mike Collins)
When Charles Lloyd brought the curtain down on the 2014 London Jazz festival with a final night performance of his Wild Man Suite, for many it was a highlight in a festival packed with extraordinary moments (link to review below). This release, marking Lloyd’s return to Blue Note after a 25 year, 16-album association with ECM, is a live recording of the premiere of the suite at 2013’s Jazztopad Festival in Poland for which it was commissioned.
Although there are six tracks listed, this is in effect one continuous performance with six distinct themes and vibes emerging from swirls of textures or linking solo meditations and work outs from one of the band. It’s vintage Charles Lloyd with new collaborators. Gerald Clayton is on piano, Joe Sanders on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums. An initial suggestion to Lloyd of including a string quartet was transmuted to the inclusion of a lyra (a Greek bowed instrument) and a cimbalom (strings on a piano like frame struck with mallets) played respectively by Sokratis Sinopoulos and Miklos Lucaks. “I envisioned different kinds of strings interacting tonally and texturally—piano strings, bass strings, bowed strings of the lyra and the mallet hammered strings of the cimbalom” Lloyd is reported as saying. Those textures launch Flying over Odra as first the cimbalom and then lyra create an eerie incantation before bass and drums ease into a steady pulse with the master’s distinctive, plaintive tenor sound tracing out a melody. It’s a long, contemplative start and the clamour builds to collective hubbub before subsiding. The transition to the next piece, Gardner is provided by haunting phrases from the lyra. Another mysterious accumulation of intensity takes places before suddenly the band are grooving hard with dazzling solos from Clayton and Lloyd. It’s a pattern they repeat with increasing impact. Lark starts with a luminous piano before the collective improvisation that follows gives way to rolling modal work out. River’s course leads it, via a hooky sax riff to a blistering post bop groove over what sounds like a minor blues. Jazz roots are never far way and the unfamiliar additions of lyra and cymabalom sound completely at home. The closer, Wild Man Dance has a bouncing feel and there are blistering work outs for both the new additions before a keening, impassioned tenor solo from Lloyd dissipates the groove and leads them gently to a halt.
This album perhaps has most impact when listened to as a whole rather than dipped into, but it unquestionably captures the thrill and compelling, life affirming magic of Lloyd at his best.