The Charles Lloyd Quartet Live at the Highline Ballroom, NYC
Moran's fingers moved like lightning, dropping new ideas and picking up others from between the keys, until the result was a storm of virtuosity that rose up through the hall, with no end in sight. The energy moved Lloyd to swaying delight. Then he danced a little. As it kept building and building, people in the audience shouted and whooped in appreciation. And when the end finally came, it seemed so simple, so logical, that people looked around to laugh in disbelief.
Rogers then took a deep, extended bass solo that got him joyously bowing with lightning technique, sending multiple strings resonating in harmony with each other. As Lloyd adjusted his reed and readied himself to step back in, the group entered with a high velocity Latin groove that brought a grin to his face. Indeed, there was a touch of hoedown in the music, as lines passed back and forth with an ebullient energy. But the higher speed and the growing intensity brought the four tighter and tighter together, to the point where ideas seemed to pass among the musicians along telepathic power lines.
Moran took a brief solo, dark and stormy but still swinging at breath-like intervals. Rogers danced a little behind his bass, as sax and piano continued their conversation amidst close-knit sections of changing feels. In the end, the bass proved to be the key, pulling everyone together again like the easy tug of tying a knot.
Silvio Rodriguez's "Rabo de Nube" scaled the dynamic back just a little. Harland set a foot pedal to tap a tambourine, while Moran played like a minimalist though, encouraged by Lloyd's shout of "Play it!," his solo almost seemed to sing, or to metamorphose from an indefinite lounge style into folk tinges that blended the beautiful, the exotic, and the familiar into one clear voice.
Rogers, Lloyd, Harland
For the encore, Lloyd and Co. returned to the stage with an arrangement of the traditional "The Water Is Wide." Rogers broke out a funky intro with drums, and Lloyd scattered cool, flitting tones from his tenor. The song took on a soft, mellow yet earthy soul feel that got a clap going in the audience. When Lloyd stepped up to solo, he wailed. His sheets of sound and altissimo vocalizations were like joyous blasts of song, thrust out one after another with all the honk and happiness of an R&B bar walker. Rogers followed with a downright dirty bass solo, quoting Bill Withers' "Lean on Me."
Finally, the concert closed with a beautiful version of "Booker's Garden," the only piece of the night to feature the meditative tones of Lloyd's alto flute. Moran stretched out, exploring the plaintive melody. Rogers set up a heavy bass funk. Harland broke out rock beats and dizzying hi-hat rhythms, then locked into a grooving exchange with Lloyd. Flute spoke, drums answered, and vice versa.
When it was done, the four players took their well-deserved curtain calls. The music left a pleasant hum running through the crowd, like the vibration of a tuning fork. People got up slowly, hesitating to leave. After all the bowing, Master Lloyd came out to greet friends and fans. Even from a distance, through the thick knot of people eager to shake his hand or ask him to sign a CD, his smile was bright and visible. He moved with a bounce, a groove, in his step. Here's hoping he comes back East very soon.
Group Picture: D. Darr
Highline Ballroom Picture: Alison Johns