These are busy guys so it took a long time to work out the schedule for a recording session back in December of 1999, but Charles Lloyd managed to bring together this cross-generational fellowship and the results are indeed splendid. John Abercrombie and Billy Higgins are holdovers from the Voice in the Night album, with pianist Brad Mehldau and bassist Larry Grenadier being new to the fold. Regardless, the chemistry is solid throughout, making Lloyd’s seventh ECM album particularly special.
Keeping in mind Mehldau’s pensive and brooding style, the match with Lloyd seems totally justified. Much of the material is of a tranquil and reflective nature, as in the duo performance of “Ballade & Allegro,” and the pianist’s “classical” leanings aid him in a creating a mood that seamlessly caresses Lloyd’s burnished tone. Middle tempo cuts include Lloyd’s own “Figure in Blue” and Strayhorn’s “Lotus Blossom.” Plus, “Song of Her” and “Lady Day” are old Lloyd favorites that gain new life in these interpretations.
Lloyd’s highly characteristic sound and gentle mystique create an allure that is just as contagious now as when he was first turning heads back in the ‘60s. It’s a gentle intensity that permeates his most audacious work, as in the case of “The Monk and the Mermaid,” and his spiritual nature is reflected in “There Is a Balm in Gilead,” where he is supported merely by Higgins using mallets on tom-toms.
The Water is Wide adds considerably to Lloyd’s already impressive catalog at ECM. As a teaser, it is just the first set of recordings to be culled from that December 1999 session and more of this quintet will be heard from at a later date.
Track Listing: Georgia, The Water is Wide, Black Butterfly, Ballade and Allegro, Figure in Blue, Lotus Blossom, The Monk and the Mermaid, Song of Her, Lady Day, Heaven, There Is a Balm in Gilead, Prayer (68:28)
Personnel: Charles Lloyd- tenor saxophone, Brad Mehldau- piano, John Abercrombie- guitar, Larry Grenadier- bass, Billy Higgins- drums