On the cover of Charles Lloyd's latest album, a solitary figure walks with some deliberation toward a vast expanse of sea. A series of lines converge at his right, appearing to box him in like one of Francis Bacon's popes. And so before even getting so far as inserting the disc in the player, the listener is aware that Lloyd's chosen title is an ironic understatement, partly cynical, partly playful. This is hardly a matter of jumping the creek. It's an overcoming, a superhuman leap across a great divide.
One of the best full quartet tracks found on Jumping the Creek opens the disc, a cover of Jacques Brel's "Ne me quitte pas." It begins tamely enough, with Lloyd playing the pleading refrain over and over again (Geri Allen's piano is a minor masterpiece of mood-making, and here as elsewhere, she is ably supported by Eric Harland's quietly radiating cymbals and Robert Hurst's clear, assertive bass), but the piece slowly builds to a frantic, aching, threatening state. Before the emotionally spent closing head, Lloyd seems to be shrieking, screaming, "Don't leave me! Don't you dare leave me!"
"Ken Katta Ma Om (Bright Sun Upon You)" is more or less two conjoined duo pieces: first free-flowing Lloyd and locomotive Harland, then erratic Allen and an increasingly restless Harland. The trio finally comes together to wrap up the tune and fade out.
Using these different group permutations, Lloyd and his quartet experiment with motion. Allen's absence on "Canon Perdido" makes for a sleek, streamlined song, darting ever forward as though physically compelled to do so; whereas her lush, sweeping piano, combined with Harland's building-without-climaxing percussion, makes "Angel Oak Revisited" sound like one long intro, all tension and no release.
"The Sufi's Tears" stands out because it wears its ethnic inspiration on its sleeve rather than integrating small threads into the fabric of a song. Apart from its exotic beauty, however, it is one of the least inspired songs on Jumping the Creek, and along with the distinctly French, Spanish, Inuit, English, and North American-themed tracks throughout, it lends it the feel of Charles Lloyd's Mystical World Tour. But this, too, refers to the "jumping the creek" metaphor, a man leaping back and forth across the oceans to gather and assimilate new musical influences.
If, as Walter Pater said, "All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music," then the music on Lloyd's newest release certainly aspires to something beyond itself. Like fellow reedmen John Coltrane and David S. Ware, Lloyd is grasping and striving toward transcendence. He does not always do so with Coltrane's assurance and grace, or Ware's sense of complete catharsis, but together with the fine quartet assembled here, he has recorded an album that stands as a landmark in his own respectable body of work, as well as the ECM catalogue.
Track Listing: 1. Ne me quitte pas (13:24); Ken Katta Ma Om (Bright Sun Upon You) (5:44) Angel Oak
Revisited (3:33); Canon Perdido (3:01); Jumping the Creek (5:56); The Sufi
Personnel: Charles Lloyd (tenor and alto saxophones, taragato), Geri Allen (piano), Robert Hurst
(double-bass), Eric Harland (drums, percussion)
Year Released: 2005
| Record Label: ECM Records
| Style: Modern Jazz