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Charles Lloyd Quartet: Rabo de Nube

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Charles Lloyd has an obvious knack for assembling bands; it's been apparent since he first launched his quartet in the mid '60s with Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette and Cecil McBee or Ron McClure. In the decades following he's often employed fine musicians with very different styles, including pianists Michel Petrucciani and Geri Allen, guitarist John Abercrombie and drummer Billy Higgins. His current group—with Jason Moran (piano), Reuben Rogers (bass) and Eric Harland (drums)—puts equal emphasis on youthful vigor and free interplay.

A sense of playfulness is often apparent here, a willingness to reconfigure a tune suddenly on a moment's inspiration. While Lloyd sometimes begins a tune alone, presenting naked melody, Moran is often the architect of change, mutating structures and approaches on the extended Lloyd themes like "Prometheus" and "Sweet Georgia Bright." The band's energy is clearly an inspiration for Lloyd, now 70, whose lyrical flights seem to put him in touch with his sources, both musical and spiritual. He and Moran banter playfully on "La Colline de Monk," with Moran wandering in and out of time for some fittingly fractured stride piano. "Booker's Garden," a tribute to Lloyd's Memphis colleague Booker Little, occasions some fittingly beautiful alto flute work from Lloyd, while "Ramanujan" summons up the spirits of Indian music and spirituality with the dark timbre of Lloyd's tarogato and Harland's polyrhythmic invention.

There's a remarkable consistency here for a band so willing to take chances, but the finest moments come on "Migration of Spirit," an ethereal modal meditation in which Lloyd seems to be channeling middle-period John Coltrane (circa 1963) in his fluid scalar runs. Lloyd's tenor sound, very close to the metallic shimmer of Coltrane with a leavening breathiness that suggests Stan Getz, may be as beautiful a sound as anyone has ever coaxed from a tenor saxophone. That exalted lyricism flowers again in the title track, a song by Cuban composer Silvio Rodriguez.

Track Listing: Prometheus; Migration Of Spirit; Booker's Garden; Ramanujan; La Colline De Monk; Sweet Georgia Bright; Rabo De Nube.

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

Title: Rabo De Nube | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: ECM Records

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