The initial response of most Americans to the tragedy of September 11th was shock, quickly followed by anger. While many maintain that anger, others have moved on to mourning, contemplation, and hope. Such is the mood for Charles Lloyd’s recording, over two hours of introspection and spiritual resurrection.
This recording of two sessions from the winter of 2002 follows two of the most beautiful records Lloyd has ever made. Both The Water Is Wide (2000) and Hyperion With Higgins (2001) showcase Lloyd’s spiritual side and, as these were some of the last recordings made by drummer Billy Higgins, they have an supernatural deliberation about them.
In the wake of the events of 9-11, Lloyd reassembled Larry Grenadier and John Abercrombie from the Higgins’ dates and added Geri Allen, and long time companions Billy Hart and Marc Johnson. Lloyd worked these sessions as a quartet with Allen, Grenadier and Hart, then a quintet adding Abercrombie and switching bassists to Johnson.
Perusing the titles Lloyd’s purpose becomes apparent. His response to the tragedy is one of lament, longing, and faith. His creed is interdenominational, and multi-racial. He covers music of spirituals, “Deep River,” “Go Down Moses,” and “Amazing Grace,” alongside of the Negro National Anthem as the albums title piece and Islamic poet’s “Hafez, Shattered Heart.” Lloyd’s “Moses” has a certain sense of anger before settling into a comforting blues. His solo taragato on “Hafez” applies a patient yet unresolved inquiry into the Eastern experience of world events.
Along with traditional music he plies his own craft, that is jazz, to these statements. Recalling a peaceful response he takes up Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and Billy Preston’s “You Are So Beautiful.” No grandstanding is allowed here or on any of these tracks. The melodies are touched on with a minimum of soloing as if to focus on the message and not the musician. It’s not that these talented musicians are held back. This disc reminds one of John Coltrane’s ballads recording where less was more. Bringing forth Allen and Abercrombie’s spiritual/folk side is a valued gift.
Lloyd’s largess here is his sincerity. The distinctness of this music is a break from the artificiality of many responses to 9-11. Lloyd’s belief in humanity and reliance on the healing and redemptive qualities of music propels this compassionate recording.