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Charles Lloyd at the Musical Instrument Museum

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Charles Lloyd and Sangam
Musical Instrument Museum
Phoenix, Arizona
March 9, 2014

Saxophonist Charles Lloyd, who has continually reinvented his musical style since the late 1960s, delivered a deluge of sound and rhythm changes in a spell-binding concert that integrated avant-garde jazz with elements of Asian and Eastern European music. Performing with tabla master Zakir Hussain and percussionist Eric Harland, the acoustic union known since 2004 as Sangam created free-flowing invention.

Lloyd, 75, mostly played tenor sax, but also alto flute, piano and tarogato, a western Asia/eastern European wooden horn. Lloyd employed minor moves in the free-jazz mode, lithely dispensing with time signatures and predictable harmonies for an aural experience that was both exciting and reflective. Lloyd's tenor sax and flute excursions were alternately propulsive and airy, his delivery on the tarogato warmly vibrant, emitting the cross-pollinated sound of oboe, clarinet and bassoon. He announced no song titles.

Hussain, who's been touring 50 years, since he was a 12-year-old tabla prodigy in Mumbai, has worked with percussionist Airto Moreira and guitarist John McLaughlin, as well as other jazz and rock musicians. His flying fingers and sliding left palm altered the tones of the drums. He interfaced closely with Harland, who created varied pitches on cymbals, snares, toms and two sizes of bass drums, one in front and one at his left side, both feet in rapid motion on the pedals.

Although Lloyd was the headliner, the tall, lean leader created space for tabla genius Hussain and Texas-born drummer Harland (McCoy Tyner, Terence Blanchard, Joshua Redman) to interject pulsating sounds that sometimes resembled rock rhythms. At times, Lloyd or Harland moved to the piano as Hussain took the starring role, seated cross-legged on a small platform, playing a set of Indian hand-drums while chanting traditional bol (mnemonic syllables), as well as singing in Hindi.

The concert was exhilarating in its improvised unpredictability, a joyous, energetic sound that fully engaged the rapt audience and required two encores.

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