Culled from the same session that brought us the excellent Water Is Wide
recording from last year, Hyperion With Higgins
delivers more of the same commendable music. With a heavy heart, saxophone Charles Lloyd bids farewell to his friend, drummer Billy Higgins who passed away this year. Both Higgins and Lloyd are jazz masters who have participated in shaping the history and direction of modern jazz. Both musicians came up playing together in the Los Angeles area, Higgins gaining fame with the revolutionary Ornette Coleman ensemble and Lloyd with a post-Coltrane jazz that was consumed by a rock audience. Billy Higgins has recorded with Sonny Rollins, Cecil Taylor, Thelonious Monk, and Dexter Gordon to name just a few of his 700 sessions.
Charles Lloyd has followed a direction in his music that was first pointed out by John Coltrane. His playing is infused with both the spirituality and passion of Coltrane’s classic quartet music. The series of records he has produced for ECM these past ten years have all been gems and this is no exception.
Lloyd employs young pianist Brad Mehldau and Mehldau’s bassist Larry Grenadier along with guitarist John Abercrombie for the Water Is Wide session. The inclusion of Mehldau begs for the obvious comparison to Lloyd’s early recordings with Keith Jarrett. Mehldau, the ever-sensitive pianist, proves he can step in and out of his introspection to play able-sideman to a superstar like Lloyd. But then every player here turns in a sparkling performance. Higgins’ understated style provides the warmth throughout.
Lloyd’s sound just seems to get better with each session. He neither strains nor sweats here laying down graceful passages. His broad tone works well against Mehldau’s lyric piano and Abercrombie’s crunch & pop guitar. It’s not all ballads here either. The quintet comes out swinging on the title track, exercising a boppish outer edge sound. Like Coltrane, Lloyd utilizes passion within the confines of his own lyricism. This is a wondrous session.