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Charles Lloyd: Manhattan Stories

Hrayr Attarian By

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Charles Lloyd: Manhattan Stories
Since 2008 the non-for-profit label Resonance has put out a number rare historic, previously unreleased, recordings. Saxophonist John Coltrane's 1966 Temple University concert Offering: Live at Temple University (Resonance, 2014) and pianists Tommy Flanagan and Jaki Byard's 1982 duet at Keystone Korner The Magic of 2 (Resonance, 2011) are a couple examples from this treasure trove. Similarly Manhattan Stories is saxophonist Charles Lloyd's two live dates from 1965 the first at Judson Hall and the second at Slugs' Saloon.

Even at this early stage in his career Lloyd's signature mastery in blending various musical heritages and his interest in non-western cultures are quite apparent. Two standards, "Sweet Georgia Brown" and "Mississippi Bright" inspired the "Sweet Georgia Bright" that opens with Lloyd's angular and gospellish tenor soliloquy. The group continues to flirt with the Avant Garde despite maintaining a strong melodic sense as its members play off each other's ideas and lay down provocative and intricately constructed spontaneous phrases. Lloyd's own passionate solo is rough-hewn and gritty with a delightfully dissonant touch yet remains warmly accessible. Drummer Pete La Roca takes his turn in the spotlight with several minutes of thrillingly agile, edge of the seat, polyrhythms as he ushers in the tune's conclusion.

Despite his relative under-recognition, it is clear that La Roca Sims was an immensely talented and accomplished musician. With his rhythm partner, the much better known, bassist Ron Carter, they create an ever engaging and percolating backdrop for Lloyd and guitarist Gabor Szabo. On "Slugs' Blues," a Lloyd original composed expressly for this session, Carter's lyrical, complex extemporization reverberates with ingenuity and elegance. Lloyd and Szabó on their respective adlib monologues maintain strong ties with the theme's 12-bar structure while embellishing it with advanced and edgy flourishes.

Szabó's own psychedelic "Lady Gabor" allows him and opportunity to showcase his virtuosity and his imaginative improvisational skills. He lays down ethereal phrases imbued by both eastern and western motifs creating a mystical, hypnotic atmosphere. Lloyd's muscular, resonant flute dips and soars with lithe adroitness over and around this loosely woven and intriguing sonic tapestry.

The piece is the only one that was performed on both nights therefore it allows for a curious comparison of the ambience of now long gone venues. As part of the Judson Hall recital, the quartet interprets the song with a careful sense of drama especially in the organized yet unfettered otherworldly group play. No less thrilling or exotic the second take from the Slugs' Saloon gig is looser, more intimate and less cinematic. The focus here is also more on the individual expression rather than that of the ensemble.

Resonance Records, once again has uncovered a long lost gem that, packaged with copious and informative liner notes in a 2 CD set, fills an important gap in jazz history. It also offers a glimpse of three well-known masters early in their career and reintroduces a sadly under-appreciated one to modern day audiences.

Track Listing

CD1: Sweet Georgia Bright; How Can I Tell You; Lady Gabor; CD2: Slugs’ Blues; Lady Gabor; Dream Weaver.

Personnel

Charles Lloyd: tenor saxophone, flute; Gábor Szabó: guitar; Ron Carter: bass; drummer Pete La Roca: drums.

Album information

Title: Manhattan Stories | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Resonance Records

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