Charles Lloyd Trios: Chapel

The saxophonist brings his distilled tone to bear on a mostly meditative set with guitarist Bill Frisell and bassist Thomas Morgan


Many and various are the ways in which we first encounter the work of soon-to-be-favourite musicians. Listening on a cheap transistor radio under the bedclothes when I should have been preparing for GCE exams, I discovered Lloyd via a crackly late-night broadcast from a European radio station featuring a concert from the 1966 tour by Lloyd’s classic quartet of Keith Jarrett, Cecil McBee and Jack DeJohnette.

They were playing the appropriately titled Dream Weaver and I was ensnared. A disappointing concert in London a few months later only temporarily dented my enthusiasm, and I have continued to admire the way his music has developed.

Lloyd has done some of his most intriguing and sensitive work with guitarists – Gabor Szabo in the early years of his quartet (The Song My Lady Sings was a highlight of the 1964 Columbia album Of Course, Of Course, featuring Szabo) and John Abercrombie at the turn of the century. Lloyd and Frisell are, unsurprisingly, a fine team, and Morgan complements them beautifully, filling out the sound and consistently contributing stimulating lines.

Since the booting days of Dream Weaver (and, before that, his work with Chico Hamilton and Cannonball Adderley) and especially after his late 70s sabbatical, Lloyd’s tone distilled, sometimes verging on the etiolated, but this has suited the delicate, meditative, often romantic cast of the material he chooses and composes. (For that matter, Frisell is hardly recognisable as the same musician who was part of John Zorn’s Naked City.)

Billy Strayhorn’s Blood Count gets a misty, otherworldly reading. My Lady dances as elegantly as she sings as the tenor pirouettes around the supple guitar and bass lines. Ay Amor by the 20th-century Cuban composer Ignacio Jacinto gracefully evokes the Latin dance forms that Jacinto worked with. Lloyd switches to flute for his own piece, Beyond Darkness, which is suitably brightly textured. Dorotea’s Studio, another Lloyd original, spotlights Frisell and Morgan in an appealingly freewheeling conclusion to an enjoyable set.

This is the first of three trio albums (the second, Ocean, with Gerald Clayton and Anthony Wilson, is due out in September, and the third, Sacred Thread with Julian Lage and Zakir Hussain, is scheduled for late October) and if the others are as good I look forward to them.

Blood Count: Song My Lady Sings; Ay Amor; Beyond Darkness; Dorotea’s Studio (45.54)
Lloyd (ts, f); Bill Frisell (g); Thomas Morgan (b). San Antonio, Texas, December 2018.
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