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In verse written specially for this release, Charles Simic (currently Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry for the Library of Congress) pinpoints the poles of Charles Lloyd’s unique musical personality. On the one hand, the metropolitan jazzman, taking the music further, with the greatest respect for the tradition: “Late night talk / On a tenor / With the dead / And the shadows they cast.” On the other, the flute player of the forests and the mountain: “Voice of solitude. / Voice of insomnia. / Call of a night bird. / Continuous prayer.” Charles Lloyd represents both of these positions, and the ‘rural’ and the ‘city’ aspects of his music are again in evidence on “Rabo de Nube”.

This live album, recorded in Basel in 2007, is issued in time for Charles’s 70th birthday on March 15, 2008. The disc introduces the newest edition of the Lloyd Quartet, with Jason Moran on piano and Reuben Rogers on bass joining Charles and drummer Eric Harland (both Moran and Rogers making their ECM debuts here). The work doesn’t stop, even for birthday celebrations, and just as Lloyd has continued to refine his sound as a player so he continues to shape his group music, always encouraging the players – in this case musicians half his age – to find their own space inside it.

“Rabo de Nube” (Tail of a Cloud) is named for the tune by Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez which concludes the performance here, a beautiful ballad that has long been a favourite of Lloyd’s. It makes its second appearance in his ECM discography, having previously appeared on “Lift Every Voice”, recorded in 2002. All other tunes are Lloyd originals and include the vintage “Sweet Georgia Bright”, a piece that Charles first recorded in 1964, both with his own band and with Cannonball Adderley’s group, and which, with its driving momentum, has been a concert favourite ever since. The Basel concert opens with “Prometheus”, which seems to borrow some of “Georgia Bright”’s fire. “Migration of Spirit” is a big, radiant tenor meditation. “Booker’s Garden”, in memory of childhood friend Booker Little, is a cheery tribute with the alto flute. The tarogato comes to the fore in “Ramanujan”, a piece whose non-specific tribal pulses tap into a universal folk-dance that has belonged to the ambit of Lloyd’s music since at least the late 60s and “Journey Within.” Its open form encourages some swirling piano responses from Moran, who gets back to the roots on “La Colline de Monk”, which, in turn, leads to “Sweet Georgia”. In all, “Rabo de Nube”, the album, gives a good account of the scope of Charles Lloyd’s music today.

Memphis-born Lloyd has played with some exceptional pianists in the course of his long career, starting with Phineas Newborn in his home town, with Joe Zawinul in the Cannonball Adderley group, and with Keith Jarrett, whom Lloyd introduced in his pioneering group of the 1960s. Subsequent Lloyd quartet pianists have included Michel Petrucciani, Bobo Stenson, and Geri Allen. Unfazed by the achievements of these distinguished predecessors, Jason Moran finds his own, exciting way to play inside Lloyd’s musical concepts. As the New York Times once observed, Moran reaches both further back in the jazz tradition and further outside it than most of his contemporaries. His strongly chordal approach and his percussive originality took off from an early interest in Thelonious Monk, but Moran (born 1975) studied with three great teachers – Jaki Byard, Andrew Hill, and Muhal Richard Abrams – who encouraged him to find his own path. He has recorded a number of critically-acclaimed albums as a leader, won a number of prizes including the Jazz Journalists Association’s Pianist of the Year Award, and performed with many great musicians from Wayne Shorter to Lee Konitz.

One of Moran’s classmates at Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts was drummer Eric Harland, who would later make the connections that would bring Moran and Greg Osby together, an important point in the pianist’s biography, setting the stage for his association with Blue Note records. In the quartet with Lloyd, Moran and Harland have a wealth of shared history to draw on, an underlying factor in the strengths of this particular unit.

Harland, now widely acknowledged as one of the most creative drummers of his generation, took up the drums inspired by Elvin Jones on “A Love Supreme”, going on to play with McCoy Tyner and Pharoah Sanders as well as Ravi Coltrane, and a host of other musicians including Joshua Redman, Joe Henderson, Betty Carter. The list goes on. For the last decade he has also been part of pianist Aaron Goldberg’s trio, with Reuben Rogers on bass. Latterly the drummer and bassist have also been playing trio (as well as quartet) concerts with Charles Lloyd. Harland plays, additionally in Lloyd’s other trio with tabla master Zakir Hussain. See the ECM album “Sangam”, another celebratory live recording.

Rogers, born in the Virgin Islands in 1974, played clarinet, guitar and drums before settling on the double-bass as his instrument of choice. In his Caribbean homeland he grew up exposed to calypso and reggae as well as jazz and some of that music’s dancing swing seems to have been integrated into his sound, and by extension, into the very elastic grooves he creates with Harland. Reuben Rogers’s other musical affiliations have included work with Nicholas Payton, Diane Reeves, Jackie McLean, Roy Hargrove and Mulgrew Miller.

The Charles Lloyd Quartet is touring internationally in support of “Rabo de Nube” with concerts in the United States, Japan and Europe. A string of West Coast dates launches the tour, followed by a residency at Tokyo’s Blue Note Club. European dates will begin in Switzerland; more details soon at www.ecmrecords.com/tours and www.charleslloyd.com

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