Charles Lloyd, Zakir Hussain & Erik Harland at the Dakota Jazz Club
Back to tenor for the fourth outing, Lloyd sounded a solemn legato progression over a bed of malleted toms and droning voices. Suddenly the solemn clouds broke with tenor cycling playfully through registers and landing in the upper reaches as the drums patterned a driving current of rhythms. Seemingly uncertain as to how to end the music eventually dispersed into silence. The fifth and final number found Lloyd on flute, riffing over a skeletal dual drum rhythm to the point of redundancy. Dropping out he left the floor to his partners. Hussain took the lead first in riveting display that had his fingers racing across the tautly stretched tabla skins. Harland followed, crafting another cascading display behind the kit. Both solos presaged the two together in another momentum-ratcheting finish that had them mimicking the tonal diversity of a full steel drum ensemble. Responding to the exuberant applause brought about by their wild finish Lloyd led the band back on stage for a single encore. A solo alto extemporization on what sounded like the melodic kernel of "Tenderly" segued into another ensemble improv with Harland turning to piano, tapping out dark pedal-dampened Jarrett-like chords and Hussain mixing another tabla pattern with impassioned rhythmic vocals. Lloyd joined on flute to take the piece out once again to resounding approval from the crowd.
Based on attendance and overall inspiration by the performers the concert could easily be considered a success. Still, I left the Dakota feeling as if I'd been privy to something merely good that could've been great. Lloyd seemed to rest a bit on his reputation and the skill of his partners, hanging back when he could've engaged them with a comparable level of veracity and passion. With his lifetime of accomplishments and a career that continues to bear creative blossoms he owes no one anything. I just expected a bit more given what's come before.