Tenor saxophonist Charles Lloyd pursues a slightly different angle on his new and seventh “ECM” release titled, The Water Is Wide. Lloyd continues to utilize the exemplary talents of drummer Billy Higgins and guitarist John Abercrombie, who both performed on the artist’s previous effort, Voice In The Night. While the saxophonist also enlists young wunderkind pianist Brad Mehldau and bassist Larry Grenadier who comprise two thirds of the pianist’s working trio.
Perhaps Lloyd is plotting a new course in contrast to his earlier – ethereal dreamscape style recordings as the saxophonist directs his strategies towards bluesy and moody renditions of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia” and the traditional “The Water Is Wide”, among other standards and Lloyd originals. Throughout, the saxophonist’s infamous Coltrane inspired angular attack and tantalizing inflections meld wonderfully with Mehldau’s warm, thoughtful phrasing and Abercrombie’s poignant undercurrents. Yet the combined – rhythmic - artistry of Billy Higgins and Larry Grenadier proves to be indispensable throughout this rather ubiquitous mix, which also includes Billy Strayhorn’s endearing “Lotus Blossom”, and Duke Ellington’s lesser known, “Heaven”.
The saxophonist’s rich melodious phrasing and soulful expressionism on Cecil McBee’s “Song Of Her” offers the optimum in softly executed sentiment and lush balladry whereas you can almost hear Billie Holiday’s voice seeping through Lloyd’s sultry and altogether deeply moving lines on his original composition, “Lady Day”.
Simply put, Charles Lloyd has rarely sounded better as the musicians seemingly interrogate each other’s souls during these sixty-eight enlightening minutes. Without a doubt, The Water Is Wide should find it’s way into quite a few top ten lists for the year 2000. Highly recommended.