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Live Reviews

A Mystical Sangam: Charles Lloyd at the Library of Congress, Nov. 8, 2006

By Published: November 22, 2006

The second spontaneous composition began with a duet between Harland and Hussain. Lloyd picked up the tarogato, an instrument he favors of late. It is a single reed instrument with a conical bore, and looks like a large clarinet made from rosewood, though its East European origins soon became evident, especially when Lloyd displayed its natural mournful sound. As he did so, his body began to sway and writhe, his legs lifting up one after another. He appeared to be in a trance, and traces of "A Love Supreme emerged from the dirge-like melodic line. Upon completing his statement, he gently returned the tarogato to its rack and, with arms behind his back, inconspicuously walked behind the piano, leaving his band mates to continue their colloquy. With Harland's polytonal rhythmic line and Hussain's tablas, the auditorium was transported in time and place far from its location this evening on Washington's Capital Hill.

The group continued with a piece which began with a solo by Harland, however not a "traditional statement from a conventional trap drum set. Hussain's influence was also apparent, contributing to the exotic mood of the evening. For the first time in the performance, Lloyd picked up his tenor saxophone and had a brief dialogue with Hussain's tablas. During a brief solo, Hussain's drums suddenly played "Happy Birthday," and Hussain grinned widely while pointing to Harland. Otherwise, Hussain contained his statements, illustrating the orchestral possibilities of a few percussion instruments in the dexterous hands of a master.

The evening continued with a crushing statement by Lloyd at the piano. Hussain gently propelled the musical syntax, and Harland barely moved a string of shells over the drums. Hussain, in a hushed voice, vocalized a mysterious line. Lloyd, like Charles Mingus on the piano, is perhaps not masterful on the instrument, but he is deeply emotive and not constrained by technical formalities and expectations. His musical meditations were at once a wistful prayer and note of thanks. Lloyd then picked up the tenor once again and merely breathed into the instrument, without accompaniment from his colleagues. The piece concluded as it began: just barely.

After a brief encore, the musicians remained to meet with those audience members who felt no need to dash into the traffic of the city. Lloyd exuded a sense of personal calm and reflection, exerting a soothing effect on all who spoke with him. A large contingent of people from India surrounded Hussain both to congratulate him and to mingle with a national legend. Eric Harland met with various drumming aficionados. It was satisfying to observe that each musician was personally as positive and welcoming as his music.

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