Charles Lloyd: The Sky Will Still Be There Tomorrow

The breathy, octagenarian tenor legend follows his Blue Note trio sets with a quartet featuring Jason Moran, Larry Grenadier and Brian Blade

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Charles Lloyd’s renaissance with Blue Note continues apace, 2022’s fine trilogy of trios now followed by this strong quartet set. Jason Moran and Larry Grenadier are long-time if irregular collaborators, Brian Blade the new recruit. Lloyd himself has just turned 86, yet there is nothing old or stale in this forward-looking set.

The opening Defiant, Tender Warrior is a breathy tour de force, long-held tenor notes alternating with higher-register trills, The Lonely One more considered and wistful. Moran steps forward confidently on the self-explanatory ragtime of Monk’s Dance as Lloyd comes to the fore again on the slow-form The Water Is Rising and, solo on overdubbed flutes, on Late Bloom. Such touches show Lloyd’s sense of adventure and experiment, for this album constantly surprises in its sonic contrasts, notably between Lloyd’s airy delivery and Moran’s more percussive attack. Added depth is delivered by Grenadier’s ruminative, motoring bass and Blade’s tuneful, attentive drumming. Most beautiful is the haunting Ghost Of Lady Day, where all four musicians float round each other in quiet, intense reverence. The title track concludes the first disc in light, buoyant style as Lloyd’s alto jumps abstractly around the scale before Moran and then Lloyd again ends proceedings on a high.

The second CD offers more of the same quality, Lloyd’s highlighted flute leading off into the swirling Beyond Darkness. It’s around this point that you really marvel at the originality of the compositions, all 15 of which are by Lloyd. All intrigue in their ingenious construction that allows lots of opportunities for the musicians to exploit, and yet all seem so natural and effortless, as displayed notably in Lloyd’s dominating, adventurous solo on the lengthy Sky Valley. Some benefit by their brevity, the uplifting Lift Every Voice not outstaying its welcome at under three minutes despite packing in some serious changes in direction.

This is a double set that takes time and repeated listens to get to grips with fully. I’m glad we critics don’t give out stars any more, but I’d happily given this set a maximum five, and probably more.

Discography
CD1: Defiant, Tender Warrior; The Lonely One; Monk’s Dance; The Water Is Rising; Late Bloom; Booker’s Garden; The Ghost Of Lady Day; The Sky Will Still Be There Tomorrow (45.05)
CD2: Beyond Darkness; Sky Valley, Sprit Of The Forest; Balm In Gilead; Lift Every Voice And Sing; When The Sun Comes Up, Darkness Is Gone; Cape To Cairo; Defiant, Reprise/Homeward Dove (45.38)

Lloyd (as, ts, af, bf); Jason Moran (p); Larry Grenadier (b); Brian Blade (d, pc). Santa Barbara, CA, spring 2023.
Blue Note 00602458167948