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Charles Lloyd/Billy Higgins: Which Way Is East

Mark Corroto By

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Name your religion. Seriously, these days everyone from President "Dubya" to freedom fighters is wearing his or her religion on their sleeves. Why not jazz musicians?

And jazz musicians seem to "get it." The spiritual part, that is. From Coltrane to James Moody and Dizzy Gillespie—it’s all about the love supreme, if I can steal a title.

For drummer Billy Higgins and his long-time friend Charles Lloyd the big picture hovers close to this two-disc, 150-minute duo recording. Higgins, in the last few months of his life, traveled to Lloyd’s Big Sur home for a week of music making. The pair, friends since the 1950’s, had recorded several stunning sessions for ECM the last few years including Voice In The Night, The Water Is Wide , and Hyperion With Higgins . This session is an intimate and personal get together of familiar friends.

Billy Higgins has supplied the beat on over 700 recordings, including those by Ornette Coleman, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Cecil Taylor, Lee Morgan, Dexter Gordon, and Pat Metheny. Those acquainted with his touch will be surprised with his guitar playing and singing. Higgins plays the blues and sings a bit of Portuguese and Arabic. He also does a little hand drumming on various world instruments: a Juno tuned wooden box and a Syrian "one string." This expansion of his instruments doesn’t detract from the recording. Interestingly, Lloyd follows suit, by reinvestigating his alto saxophone and playing, among other things, taragato, Tibetan oboe, and piano.

Not interested in their exploration of new instruments? Then there are plenty of saxophone/drum tracks to savor. Smiling Billy had and always will have a velvet touch. His gliding style is in full effect here and their duets pass over competition, with each player finishing the others’ sentences.

The last recording by Higgins is worth savoring. Until you meet him in heaven I suggest you begin listening to some of those 700 sessions where he can also be found.


Track Listing: CD 1: What Is Man; Divans; Salaam; All This Is That
CD 2: Desire; Devotion; Light of Love; Surrender

Personnel: Charles Lloyd (tenor and alto saxophones, bass, alto and C flutes, piano, taragato, Tibetan oboe, percussion, maracas, voice), Billy Higgins (drums, guitar, guimbri, Syrian ?one string,? Senegalese, Guinean and Indian hand drums, Juno?s Wood box, percussion, voice)

Title: Which Way Is East | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: ECM Records

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