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Album Review

Charles Lloyd and the Marvels: Tone Poem


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Charles Lloyd and the Marvels: Tone Poem
The download comes down the i-pipe in a virtual blue folder titled Charles Lloyd Tone Poem and the first thought upon initial listening is 'damn right it is'! It is a deceptively graceful covers album which immediately makes all the songs—many by none other than Ornette Coleman, Gabor Szabo and Leonard Cohen—their own highly active ecosystem of blurry form, focused response, and whatever else tickles Lloyd's fancy.

Lloyd has been a genuine, spiritual force since the moment he chose his golden horn. Tone Poem quickly establishes free, wild prairies of rolling clouds and vast reach. Imagine "Monk's Mood" in full chill for ten-minutes-plus and you will get the gist of Lloyd's latest collection of fun house mirrors. Hear what you hear and see what you see but here is another line of thinking. Here is another field of vision with nicer flowers.

That is why moments such as Coleman's large scale "Ramblin" throw a smile on your face the whole time, while the Marvels—guitarist Bill Frisell, pedal steel guitarist Greg Leisz, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland—chug chug along on a groove so rock n roll it's hard to balance the two, but a hell of a lot of fun trying. The same goes for the ethereal cloud of Cohen's "Anthem," a poem Lloyd recites without words and then takes that unshakeable inner strength into his own "Dismal Swamp," as his balletic, mercurial flute runs side by side with Harland's laid back split-pace. Accustomed to finishing each other's lines or urging the best from either, Leisz and Frisell cook up a twangy folk-rock feast for all to bounce off on the title track. The calming shimmer of "Ay Amor" and the Santana-like "Lady Gabor" need to be heard not written about.

Being the third trip around the sun with Lloyd, the Marvels, whose previous get-togethers have resulted in late career watermarks Vanishing Gardens (Blue Note , 2018) and I Long To See You (Blue Note, 2016) inhabit a highly evolved, Möbius strip relationship which frees each player to lead or follow on any turn the other deems necessary, pre-ordained, or whimsical. As for Lloyd, who perhaps has never sounded so humanly Lloyd before, finds a lot of mellow mischief, making Tone Poem, like last year's evanescent marvel 8 Kindred Spirits (Blue Note) an early best-of in another troubled year. God bless the man.

Track Listing

Peace; Ramble; Anthem; Dismal Swamp; Tone Poem; Monk's Mood; Ay Amor (Live); Lady Gabor; Peace.


Charles Lloyd: saxophone; Bill Frisell: guitar, electric; Greg Leisz: guitar, steel; Eric Harland: drums; Reuben Rogers: bass, acoustic.

Album information

Title: Tone Poem | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

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