If ever there was an eternal explorer, it's Charles Lloyd. This inquisitive soul has made a career out of surveying new frontiers, both within himself and beyond the borders of his own being. He's taken every opportunity to peer and travel into the unknown, allowing only the sound and the spirits to serve as his guides. Yet somehow, each one of his albums also manages to feel like a homecoming of sorts.
There's something that's just plain elusive in Lloyd's art, exemplified in that miraculous marriage between the act of departure and the sound of return. Few others are capable of capturing and rectifying those same seemingly contradictory qualities in their own work, but guitarist Bill Frisell makes the short list of those who can. So is it any wonder that these kindred spirits found each other? It almost seems preordained.
I Long To See You is the first album collaboration between Lloyd and Frisell. It's an impressive mix of the familiar and foreign that manages to fall right into the wheelhouse of both artists. For starters, you can look at the personnel. The Marvels contains performers from both sides of the aislebassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland come from Lloyd's latter-day quartet while pedal steel guitarist Greg Leisz is from Frisell's world. Then there's the playlist, featuring a number of traditional selections and a Bob Dylan classic ("Masters Of War")pieces that all line up perfectly with the taste(s) of both men. And then there are the organic offerings themselves, performances that are thoroughly modern yet shadowed by primordial echoes. It may be Lloyd's name in lights, but the music speaks to the true partnership at play.
There's a lot going on here, what with timeless tales ("Shenandoah"), pieces from Lloyd's past ("Sombrero Sam," "Of Course, Of Course"), hypnotic new music ("Barche Lamsel"), songs of protest, and guest visits from vocalists Norah Jones and Willie Nelson all in the mix. But nothing really seems out of place. Even the respective one-off appearances from Jones and Nelson, which may smack of commercialism on the surface, seem to feel just right. There's a yearning in the heart of all of this music, a thirst for something greater and deeper that comes through in every bent and beautiful note.
Masters of War; Of Course of Course; La Llorona; Shenandoah; Sombrero Sam; All My Trials; Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream; Abide with Me; You Are So Beautiful; Barche Lamsel.
Charles Lloyd: sax tenore, flauto; Bill Frisell: chitarra; Greg Leisz: chitarra slide; Reuben Rogers: contrabbasso; Eric Harland: batteria. Ospiti: Willie Nelson, Norah Jones: voce.
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