“These traditional songs are woven into the fabric of the recording along with Charles’s own compositions and hymns. Strayhorn’s ‘Bloodcount’ mourns with us, ‘Go Down Moses’ demands freedom, ‘Deep River’ makes a joyful refrain – and ‘What’s Going On?’ written by Marvin Gaye in the 1960s as a protest of the times, is still relevant.
“When Charles was a child, he had an idealistic notion of changing the world through the beauty of music. On this recording he gives us music as prayer, lament, celebration, love, as a dance of spirit. It is not a recording about ‘cleverness’ and virtuosity, but a statement of how each individual is a part of a larger whole.”
With his mixed racial background (he has African, Cherokee, Irish, and Mongolian ancestors), his interest in the music of the whole world, and his long studies of Eastern religion and philosophy, Charles Lloyd has always been a global villager and, in the neighbourhood of the hymn “Amazing Grace” (words written by 18th century slave-trader turned minister John Newton, melody of uncertain origin), he sets, for instance, his own tribute to 14th century Islamic Sufi poet Khwajeh Shams al-Din Muhammad Hafez-e Shirazi, “Hafez, Shattered Heart”. The music is shaped, directly and indirectly, by both Western and Eastern influences.
New band member Geri Allen fits well into this context, and her musical interests and background overlap with Lloyd’s. She grew up listening to Duke Ellington, holds a degree in ethnomusicology, has worked with diverse Lloyd associates including Tony Williams, Ron Carter, Jack DeJohnette and Dave Holland, played extensively with Lloyd’s old friend Ornette Coleman, has experience backing singers (in Allen’s case ranging from Betty Carter to Tamla Motown singer Mary Wilson), maintains an open mind about rock music (she is a former member of Vernon Reid’s Black Rock Coalition), and has a distinguished history as a bandleader in her own right. Perhaps most importantly there is a sense that her playing is strongly rooted in the jazz tradition yet risks reaching beyond it. The playing of both Lloyd and John Abercrombie has similar virtues.
Guitarist Abercrombie joined forces with Lloyd for 1998’s “Voice In The Night” and was an important presence too on “The Water Is Wide” and “Hyperion with Higgins”. He is the first guitarist with whom the tenorist has had an extended creative alliance since the days when he partnered Gabor Szabo in Chico Hamilton’s band. Abercrombie of course is a veteran ECM recording artist and has appeared on almost 40 albums for the label since making his debut with “Timeless” in 1974. John recently compiled an album of favourite moments from those recordings for ECM’s :rarum anthology series: the compilation will be released early in 2003. His most recent album as a leader is “Cat’n’Mouse”, which also features Lloyd bassist Marc Johnson, as well as Mark Feldman and Joey Baron.
Marc Johnson, who has made several European tours with Lloyd in recent times, also has a substantial discography at ECM – as leader of the band Bass Desires (with Bill Frisell, John Scofield and Peter Erskine) and a member of Abercrombie’s trio and quartet, and as sideman with Dino Saluzzi and Ralph Towner.
Fellow bassist Larry Grenadier arrived in Lloyd’s band in tandem with frequent trio partner Brad Mehldau for the “Water Is Wide” and “Hyperion” sessions and stayed to tour with Charles, impressed, as he put it in a recent interview, with the leader’s policy “of letting the personalities of the musicians speak freely.” He added, “I’m proud of the music that came out of those days of recording in LA. I think it’s very honest, heartfelt music.” Grenadier has also played extensively with Gary Burton, Joe Henderson, Pat Metheny, and Paul Motian.
Bassists Grenadier and Johnson are heard playing together only once in the course of “Lift Every Voice”, on CD Two’s “Nocturne”.
Billy Hart, one of the most gifted and versatile of contemporary drummers, has been the driving force behind many of Lloyd’s bands and appears on the ECM albums “The Call”, “All My Relations”, and “Canto.” Amongst his numerous credits are recordings with Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Wes Montgomery, Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Joe Lovano, David Murray, Joe Zawinul, Paul Bley, Shirley Horn, and Jimmy Smith.
Release Date: October 22, 2002