Charles Lloyd Quintet Michigan Theater Ann Arbor, Michigan November 13, 2003
Even with some forty-five minutes remaining until show time, the crowd gathering outside of the Michigan Theater was growing with the sense of anticipation almost palpable, and all this despite some rather frigid temperatures. Charles Lloyd, who is in the full swing of his second coming, has rarely been seen on the East Coast and his many devoted fans had not taken this singular event lightly. With albums to autograph in tow, they gathered early and waited for the hall doors to open and the musical epiphany to begin. The throngs would certainly not go away unnourished, although it took the first few numbers for Lloyd’s stellar ensemble to lock in step with their leader. All making their debut with the University Musical Society that sponsored the event, Detroit legends Geri Allen and Robert Hurst shared the stage with guitar whiz John Abercrombie and up and coming drummer Eric Harland.
As a native of Memphis, Lloyd speaks with a sense of Southern charm and an omnipresent concern for humanity. Several references to the war in Iraq mixed with stories about hanging out with Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix. In ways spoken and unspoken, Lloyd’s purpose seemed to be in providing a musical catharsis that could provide some escape from the elements and the troubles at hand. Almost like a cantor, Lloyd works up a frenzy as he solos, swaying back and forth with the neck of his horn slightly bent to the side a la Lester Young. While the first several tunes spoke in quiet restraint, much like your typical ECM fare, a more fervent course was set with “Third Floor Richard,” with Lloyd’s flute work especially rewarding and Abercrombie’s raunchier tone a welcomed change of pace.
An iconic piece from Lloyd’s days with Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette, “Sweet Georgia Bright” really upped the ante, complete with some wonderful interplay between Lloyd and Abercrombie. Geri Allen would also deliver one of her best solos of the evening, speaking in an animated voice and stretching the limits of time with Harland in synch all the way. As the first encore, “Go Down Moses” most clearly spoke to Lloyd’s passion for the music of John Coltrane. On top of bowed bass and rumbling tom-toms, the saxophonist stepped forth in the style of “Alabama” and “Resolution.” The trance-like state carried over into a second number, “Lift Every Voice,” where Lloyd’s tenor provided incantation above the bass drone and Harland’s textural flourishes, which were nothing short of dazzling.
As gracious as they were in their generous playing time, so too would the quintet be in welcoming their fans from the stage after the performance, signing autographs and chit chatting to boot. As a cross-generational meeting of the minds, Lloyd’s appearance was a sagacious choice on the part of the University Musical Society, a group that just keeps setting the standard in terms of jazz presentations in the Northeastern United States.
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