Although Voice in the Night marks Charles Lloyd's return after over three decades to recording with guitar rather than piano as the chordal instrument, the most notable feature of his new CD is his return to form, as opposed to merely a return to format. He sounds the best he has since he left his Big Sur retreat to perform and record for ECM with Michel Petrucciani and Bobo Stenson. Indeed, the whole band sounds on, in this sequence of mostly Lloyd originals old and new, with an additional composition by Billy Strayhorn to close the CD, and an Elvis Costello / Burt Bacharach tune as well. The sound of the quartet is interesting as well, with the sometimes ethereal electric guitar creating a rich and distinctive backdrop for Lloyd's energetic and expressive tenor stylings, lines often pitched high enough to be more counter-tenor than tenor. It's a great rhythm section of veteran players, and clearly inspired Lloyd to an alertness and excitement which I don't recall since his Atlantic and Columbia recordings of the 1960's.
If you're familiar with those recordings, this "Forest flower" doesn't have the same epic qualities as the title track of Lloyd's Monterey festival recording of that name, but it is fresh and lively. As a guitarist, John Abercrombie has a more synthesized timbre and a more chordal approach than Gabor Szabo, who sometimes sounded as if he and Lloyd were so close as to mimic rather than complement each other's individuality. Their recordings with an unusually quiet Tony Williams were nearly monochromatic, as opposed to the varied and expressive sound of this likewise gifted but vastly more accomplished group.