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Charles Lloyd/Billy Higgins: Which Way Is East

Mark F. Turner By

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Which Way Is East documents a simply magical recording between two lifelong musicians and friends: saxophonist Charles Lloyd and drummer Billy Higgins. The recording is significant for a number of reasons. Besides the musical affinity the two musicians shared, a spiritual bond also permeated their music. Having collaborated many years on numerous projects their recent efforts on ECM with Voice In The Night, The Water is Wide, and Hyperion With Higgins, the newly released Which Way Is East would be their final project together, as Billy Higgins died shortly after its recording in 2001. The recording serves as a poignant and reverent musical memorial.

Higgins was a dynamic and respected drummer who brought percussive verve to the music of greats such as Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, Sonny, Rollins, John Coltrane, and countless others. His aforementioned efforts with Lloyd led to the weeklong recording at Lloyd's Santa Barbara home and features the two musicians on their primary instruments as well as surprises such as Lloyd's rare performances on alto saxophone and piano, or Higgins' singing and guitar performances.

The two CD recording features an expansive eight-suite movement of thirty individual pieces with a mix of duet and solo performances. The styles span global, spiritual, and cultural boundaries and show the symbiotic kinship the musicians shared. Lloyd is a consummate musician and his horn and flute performances are a testament to his longevity. Higgins' colorful and dynamic pulsations spawn a rainbow of percussion. The musicians seem to breathe in unison as each performance is filled with joy, life, and fluidness.

The performances use diverse arrangements of not only horn and drums conversations but also include flutes, piano, and exotic instruments such as Lloyd on Tibetan oboe, and Higgins on Senegalese and Guinean hand drums. From the tribal voices of the opening suite, "What Is Man," which explores primitive sounds and modern jazz, to the African/Latin sentiments of "Light of Love" and "Surrender," the music is a wondrous journey on many levels.

Fervently recommended.


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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