11. Being And Becoming, Road To Dakshineswar With Sangeeta
Charles Lloyd tenor, alto saxophone, voice
Jason Moran piano
Reuben Rogers double-bass
Eric Harland drums
Recorded December 2009
Review by Thom Jurek
When Charles Lloyd showcased his quartet in a live setting on 2008's Rabo de Nube, it was one of the more exciting, free-flowing dates of that year. It was physical, full of intense engagement and fiery energy. On that date, he performed a number of tunes he'd recorded before, along with new compositions. Mirror, recorded with the same band -- drummer Eric Harland, pianist Jason Moran, and bassist Reuben Rogers -- in a Santa Barbara studio, is, as the title suggests, a mirror image of the previous outing. Here too, the saxophonist revisits some older material with, thanks in large part to his sidemen, new ears. The material is mostly gently swinging ballads and outr? investigations showcasing an even more spiritual side to Lloyd's playing and arranging. But it also displays the great intuitive nuances this band is capable of. While the set opens with an elegant and gently swinging reading of the standard "I Fall in Love Too Easily," it's the follow-up, the spiritual "Go Down Moses," that showcases the group's persona with its modal, questioning concerns, while keeping the tune firmly in the church. The title track appeared on 1989's Canto, and is here performed with the kind of deep commitment and sense of interdependent energy only time and wisdom can impart. Another tune from that album, "Desolation Sound," while still a ballad, features a lot more engagement from the players here: Moran's solo looks in and through the changes to find a way outside and gets there. Harland's shimmering breaks add more crackle than on the original. Likewise, "The Water Is Wide" and "Lift Every Voice and Sing" are performed, in their restrained way, more energetically than they were on their respective albums. One of Mirror's great surprises is a tender reading of the Beach Boys' "Caroline, No." While the melody is inescapable, Lloyd very quickly transforms it into a jazz ballad of haunting, romantic beauty. On a pair of Monk tunes here -- "Ruby, My Dear" and "Monk's Mood" -- Moran's own musical personality is given free rein. He expresses it with his deft senses of rhythmic and harmonic intuition, underscoring unexpected phrases and elaborating on others. Ultimately, Mirror is another Lloyd triumph. It may not shake the rafters with its kinetics, but it does dazzle with the utterly symbiotic interplay between leader and sidemen.
There is a sense of mystery, majesty and daring surrounding this remarkably deep studio session, the first of its kind for the adventurous renegade label RareNoiseRecords.
Each piece resounds with such compelling, conversational, in-the-moment playing that it sets a new standard in collective improvisation. “I believe it raises the bar for what improvised music can achieve on record,” says pianist Jamie Saft of Red Hill, the group's mesmerizing debut on the RareNoise label.
Fueled by the urgent high note blasts and expressive muted trumpet work of avant-garde icon Wadada Leo Smith and underscored by an uncanny group-think of RareNoise stalwarts Jamie Saft (Metallic Taste of Blood, Slobber Pup, Plymouth, The New Standard) on keyboards, Joe Morris (Plymouth, Slobber Pup, One) on acoustic bass and Balazs Pandi (Obake, Metallic Taste of Blood, Slobber, Pup, One) on drums, Red Hill is a kind of clarion call for the new avant-garde.
REDHILL 600600 72DPIPandi's sensitive, highly interactive brushwork and coloristic cymbals underscore Smith's lyrical muted trumpet playing on the sparse opener, “Gneiss.” And yet, when that piece builds to a turbulent crescendo near the end, the drummer is right there to fuel the frantic proceedings.
With mallets, Pandi engages in a conversational duet with Smith at the outset to “Janus Face,” a piece that evolves from slow, open rubato statements to dense explosions of tumultuous free jazz sparked by Saft's Cecil Taylor-esque attack on the piano. Saft switches to Fender Rhodes electric piano to attain another color on “Agpaitic,” a conversational romp that features some aggressive bowing on the bass by Morris. And Pandi supplies the rolling free pulse beneath Morris' trance-like bass ostinato and Smith's edgy trumpet excursions on “Tragic Wisdom,” which also has intrepid improvisor Saft plucking strings inside his piano.
Silence is the watchword on “Debts of Honor,” a thoughtful improvisation which evolves gradually over the course of nine minutes from zen-like tranquility to intense crescendo paced by Pandi's relentless drumming and Saft's spiky piano comping and is highlighted by some of Smith's most powerful blowing of the session. The trumpeter begins the closing number, “Arfvedsonite,” with a high-note blast before Morris enters with some insistent arco work to create an edgy texture. Pandi's rolling pulse with mallets and Morris' resounding bass tones quickly establish a solid launching pad for Wadada's stratospheric improvisations on trumpet, bringing this spell-binding collection to a ferocious conclusion.