Charles Lloyd & The Marvels – I Long To See You
(Blue Note. CD review by Mike Collins)
I Long to see You is Charles Lloyd’s second release since returning to the Blue Note label last year. The debut, Wild Man Suite (reviewed here) saw him extend his regular band by looking to Europe and incorporating a lyra and a cimbalom in the line-up. This time there’s an altogether different collaboration with Bill Frisell and pedal steel guitarist Greg Leisz joining regular band members, bass player Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland. There are also guest appearances by Willie Nelson and Norah Jones.
Lloyd has such a distinctive sound and presence, that it seems anything he plays is instantly recognisable. There’s always a deceptively loose exploratory sound to his bands that are nevertheless locked together rhythmically. Harland and Rogers are sublime partners in this respect. This set is no exception, but the material is planted firmly in territory resonant of the country music implied by the presence of steel guitar, Bill Frisell’s instincts in that direction and those guests.
Traditional songs and spirituals have been appearing on the NEA Jazz Master’s albums for a couple of decades and they are well represented here with a breathless take of La Llorana, the hymn Abide with Me, All my Trials and the timeless Shenandoah. They are all taken at meditative pace, Lloyd’s feel and sound causing the melodies to seep into the consciousness like vapour, the sound of someone breathing a thought into a room.
Frisell and Leisz provide the subtlest of accompaniments, ringing harmonics from Frisell and distant whines from the pedal steel feature as much as overt chords, Frisell doubling melodies and playing off them with little flickering runs. Willie Nelson sings Last night I Had the Strangest Dream and Norah Jones You Are So Beautiful, the latter a spacious warm bath of a reading. Neither sound out of place, the band playing behind them with the same understated energy.
If the focus on songs means there is less overt discursiveness, there are more expansive moments with re-workings of Lloyd’s own Of Course Of Course and Sombrero Sam and a new composition, Barche Lamset, a long quintessential Lloyd piece of atmospherics, brief melodic hooks, accelerating into an extended groove before unwinding to bring the set to a close.
Charles Lloyd and his Marvels have given us a very approachable celebration of their American roots with moments of distilled beauty that leave musical genres behind.
Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter @jazzyblogman