How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Voice in the Night is a welcome homecoming for reedman Charles Lloyd. He hasn't recorded in a guitar-based group since his two tremendously underrated (and rockish) albums for A&M in 1972-73. Here, he also pleasingly revisits a good deal of his earlier (and still his most personable) material: "Forest Flower," from the famed quartet days of the late 60s, "Voice in the Night" and in the "Pocket Full of Blues" medley, "Island Blues" and "Little Sister's Dance."
With the advantage of hindsight, Lloyd seems to sound warmer, somewhat romantic - and a touch more inspired than usual with a guitar. Pianists seem to bring out Lloyd's more aggressive Coltrane-ish side and often permit him to easily dabble in longer, spacier themes with exotic instrumentation. Even though he sticks to tenor throughout here (his exceptional flute playing is sorely missed coupled with John Abercrombie's sensistive accompaniment), Lloyd sounds just right here: swinging and having fun too.
This all-star aggregate, featuring Abercrombie on guitar, Dave Holland on bass and Billy Higgins on drums, recalls the other supergroup Lloyd captured on 1965's superb Of Course, Of Course (Columbia, not on CD). The earlier date featured iconoclastic guitarist Gabor Szabo, an excellent foil for any of Lloyd's moods (Szabo came to the Chico Hamilton group Lloyd directed at Lloyd's insistence in the early 1960s), with bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams. Lloyd, Abercrombie and Holland bring a far different, mellowed perspective to this music.
Voice in the Night suffers none of the austerity that rules much of ECM's recordings and a few of Lloyd's previous five ECM releases. Aside from toe-tapping interplay on the familiar songs, Lloyd and company offer lovely covers of Strayhorn's "A Flower is a Lovesome Thing" and, surprisingly, last year's Burt Bachrach/Elvis Costello hit, "God Give Me Strength." Quite often, though, the most interesting moments come on Lloyd's newest material: the off-kilter calypso of "Dorotea's Studio," "Homage" (a sterling Abercrombie showpiece) and "Requiem." However, anyone familiar with Lloyd's magisterial "Forest Flower" from the Chico Hamilton days, or, more likely from the famed quartet days, will certainly want to hear the beautiful version Lloyd, Abercrombie, Holland and Higgins offer here. It's worth the price of admission.
Here's hoping the somewhat reclusive Lloyd is planning a sequel to Voice in the Night. This is a quartet that offers much to explore.
Songs:Voice In The Night; God Give Me Strength; Dorothea's Studio; Requiem; Pocket Full of Blues; Homage; Forest Flower: Sunrise/Sunset; A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing.
Players:Charles Lloyd: tenor sax; John Abercrombie: guitar; Dave Holland: double bass; Billy Higgins: drums, percussion.