Album review. The great sax player returns in triumph with a breakthrough album of the best in expressive jazz
Release date: September 14th 2010
Availability: CD, MP3 Download
With the 2008 'live' album 'Rabo de Nube', Charles Lloyd emerged with a new band with a sensibility that could take his long journey in music forward again. 'Mirror', the band's first studio recording, is stronger than anything in a career that has highs (the million selling 1966 album 'Forest Flower' with an earlier band that featured Keith Jarrett, Cecil McBee and Jack DeJohnette) and lows (the long period in the and 80's and 90's making mood music with ECM). It is a triumphant return.
The band for 'Mirror' is Charles Lloyd (tenor and alto saxophones), Jason Moran (piano), Reuben Rogers (bass), Eric Harland (drums).
Charles Lloyd is Coltrane-like and magnificent throughout, aiming at and achieving the intensity and spirituality of the master. Playing alto saxophone on the Jule Styne / Sammy Cahn standard 'I Fall in Love Too Easily', he opens with sparse solitary solo lines that set the context for the whole album. This is about his vision, his search for a wider meaning through music.
The young musicians he has surrounded himself with show great perceptiveness in allowing this to happen seemingly without effort.
The overall feel is contemplative, downplayed; at its best, saying more by attempting less.
Charles Lloyd talks about 'Mirror' in the following video which gives a very good insight into his aims with the album:
There are two delicious takes on Thelonious Monk – 'Monk's Mood' and 'Ruby My Dear' – that show just how distinctive is Charles Lloyd's return to bop tradition.
In addition to 'I Fall in Love Too Easily', Charles Lloyd's own 'Desolation Sound' and the traditional 'La Llorona' are ballads of great perfection and beauty, the latter made intense by being played with overtones throughout.
Brian Wilson's 'Caroline, No' harks back to the time in the 60s that Charles Lloyd spent as a member of the Beach Boys. It is a successful transformation of pop into hustling, Coltrane-fuelled jazz. 'Go Down Moses' has a similar feel.
The title track, a Charles Lloyd original, is light, uptempo and swinging. A fine return to cool, boppish jazz. Ditto the more upbeat , 'The Water Is Wide'.
In an album with a generous 12 tracks, the last three tracks veer off with lack of focus. 'Lift Every Voice And Sing', a gospel song that Charles Lloyd has often revisited, treads a difficult line in trying to keep free form improvisation inside, while 'Being and Becoming……' makes the free jazz impetus more explicit, resolving just on the side of form. The final 'Tagi' is a weird attempt at jazz with voice; Charles Lloyd's TM platitudes read over an improvised backing sounding intrusive and, if anything, rather sinister.
But overall, this is a magnificent achievement and a clear candidate for best jazz album of the year. Recommended.
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