Charles Lloyd’s Kindred Spirits
(Ronnie Scott’s, 1 August 2019, first night, second house. Review and drawings by Geoff Winston)Charles Lloyd’s first appearance at Ronnie’s with a truly amazing group was a very special event. Lloyd’s Kindred Spirits group comprised a cohort of the highest calibre. Two extraordinary guitarists, Julian Lage and Marvin Sewell, and on bass and drums, two of Lloyd’s long-time co-musicians, the in-demand rhythm section of Reuben Rogers and Eric Harland, and, leading it all, the unmistakeable, 81-years-young Charles Lloyd on tenor sax and flute. From the moment he stepped on stage it was clear that he just loved to be playing in a small club, and he did not hold back – a strong musical presence making sure attention was paid to detail all-round, guiding with a gentle, knowing intelligence with roots in a lifetime of just living the music.
The guitarists had very different styles, so complemented each other inspiringly. Lage light, super fast and furiously florid, Sewell, sharp, raw and hitting the blues streak – they just kept upping the ante every time they soloed! Not quite duelling, but… and Harland’s drum solo was one of those that redefines what a drum solo is – none of that ‘just bash away’ – he focused on a beat and worked round it meticulously and, later, Lloyd joined him, not without humour, wielding metallic green maracas for a brief percussive duet that lightened the tone. Similarly, Rogers on electric bass didn’t take the easy route, lots of space and then he just turned it up.
Great playing from all five – never a dull moment, with Lloyd imposing his large, all-embracing presence with a gentle touch and many big smiles – just like his playing, which combined the imposingly forceful, demanding attention, and the gracefully mellifluous, with gorgeous phrasing trickling up and down the hill with every note he played – with a memorably devastating tenor sax solo outtro to their second number that really flew. The flute was Lloyd’s other instrument of choice, setting up the mood for the finale to a brilliant 80 minute set, ending on a carnival note, throwing jazz, chunky funk and a demon Latin undercurrent in to the melting pot with glorious glee!