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Charles Lloyd: Passin' Thru

Mark Sullivan By

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Passin' Thru is a live recording celebrating the 10th anniversary of saxophonist Charles Lloyd's New Quartet with pianist Jason Moran, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland. The full band was last heard from on record on Athens Concert (ECM, 2011). When Lloyd reconvened the quartet for a tour in the summer of 2016 he was in a bit of a retrospective mood, curious to revisit some of his earlier music from a more mature perspective.

After a long rubato introduction, the rhapsodic theme of "Dream Weaver" opens the set. It was the title tune on the debut album (Atlantic, 1966) by Lloyd's classic first quartet with pianist Keith Jarrett, bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Jack DeJohnette. It's a still-potent reminder of the power of that group, as well as a fine calling card for this new one. They really step out on the sprightly "Nu Blues." Moran begins with a commanding, extended piano solo (which might actually recall one of Jarrett's later solo turns, as well as the angular phrasing of Thelonious Monk), followed by Lloyd's tenor saxophone. Then Rogers' bass and Harland's drums get their turn in the spotlight. It's easy to hear that this is indeed the "magical formation" Lloyd describes it as.

"How Can I Tell You" is the ballad feature, a showcase for the leader's lyrical saxophone playing. His alto flute is featured on "Tagore on the Delta," an East/West fusion with the distinctive sound of Moran strumming chords inside the piano for a guitar effect. Then there's the jubilant Latin energy blast of "Passin' Thru," first recorded by the Chico Hamilton Quintet on the album of the same name (Impulse!, 1963) while Lloyd was a member. After a sly unaccompanied double bass introduction, the band takes off—and the tune easily justifies holding down the title slot a second time. The set closes with the mournful dirge of "Shiva Prayer," a dedication to a departed friend (which also features a beautiful unaccompanied piano introduction).

Chemistry is an elusive thing, but this quartet has it in spades. Charles Lloyd draws from a seemingly inexhaustible well of creativity—he has never sounded better, and the quartet format has never sounded fresher.

Track Listing: Dream Weaver; Part 5, Ruminations; Nu Blues; How Can I Tell You; Tagore on the Delta; Passin’ Thru; Shiva Prayer.

Personnel: Charles Lloyd: tenor saxophone, alto flute; Jason Moran: piano; Reuben Rogers: bass; Eric Harland: drums.

Title: Passin' Thru | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

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