Hyperion With Higgins

Charles Lloyd

CD18,90 out of print

Volume Two of the sessions that produced the immensely popular "The Water Is Wide", dedicated to Charles Lloyd’s lifelong friend, the drummer Billy Higgins, who died in May 2001. It is a joyous tribute. Where the previous album offered a programme of ballads the pace intensifies on "Hyperion with Higgins". Lloyd: "The idea is like with the old Southern preacher. You go low and you get high and then you catch fire". This second installement picks up the tempo. The jazz of "Hyperion" is hotter. Lloyd’s tenor sax is fierier, John Abercrombie has much more solos space to fulfill as only he can, and Brad Mehldau’s solos are also more outgoing.

Featured Artists Recorded

December 1999, Cello Studio, Los Angeles

Original Release Date


  • 1Dancing Waters, Big Sur To Bahia (For Gilberto and Caetano)
    (Charles Lloyd)
  • 2Bharati
    (Charles Lloyd)
  • 3Secret Life Of The Forbidden City
    (Charles Lloyd)
  • 4Miss Jessye
    (Charles Lloyd)
  • 5Hyperion With Higgins
    (Charles Lloyd)
  • 6Darkness On The Delta Suite: Mother Where Art Thou / Robert Johnson On The Bank Of The Ganges / Perseverance / Till The River Runs Free / Peace In The Storm
    (Charles Lloyd)
  • 7Dervish On The Glory B
    (Charles Lloyd)
  • 8The Caravan Moves On
    (Charles Lloyd)
The partnership of saxophonist Lloyd and the late drummer Billy Higgins was one of jazz's magical associations. ... Perhaps because the polarity of their approach to rhythm, they seemed to blend into a cohesive, internally reflective musical team. The tracks trace to the same 1999 sessions that produced Lloyd's previous release, the superb The Water Is Wide. Once again, the quintet consists of Lloyd, Higgins, guitarist John Abercrombie, pianist Brad Mehldau and bassist Larry Grenadier. Again, the quality of playing is extraordinarily high, different only in the selections being a bit livelier in tempo and expression.
Don Heckman, Los Angeles Times
The music is spacious and often beautiful, but never static, and is given room to breathe even in the most urgent passages, expanding outward in a way that moves beyond issues of genre or form, but always with a powerful sense of structure and purpose. Lloyd's own playing has reached a new peak of control and expressiveness in the last few years, and the whole band plays to the peak of their considerable form. Highly recommended and a fitting valedictory tribute to a master percussionist.
Kenny Mathieson, Jazzwise
Vor einem guten Jahr war an dieser Stelle Charles Lloyds CD The Water Is Wide zu preisen. Jetzt liegt der zweite, weniger balladeske Teil jener Los-Angeles-Session vom Dezember 1999 vor, als ein unfreiwilliger Nachruf auf einen der zweifellos bedeutendsten Drummer der letzten fünzig Jahre: Hyperion With Higgins. Für einmal ist solch olympischer Aplomb kein leeres pathetisches Getöse. Higgins bringt alles, das heißt alle auf den Punkt, auf den jeweils eigensten Kern, und auf einen gemeinsamen Nenner. ... In den drei ECM-Produktionen mit Higgins fand Lloyd endgültig zu einer eigenen Hymnik. John Abercrombie, eigentlich ein Gitarrist aus einer anderen stilistischen Weltgegend, war selten so sparsam, ja lapidar zu hören, und Brad Mehldau, zurzeit der Shooting Star des Jazzpianos, vergisst, Higgins als Gewissen im Rücken, fast alle seine romantischen und impressionistischen Manierismen. Dank der selbstlosen, sozusagen minimalistischen Aufmerksamkeit von Higgins wird aus dieser Allstar-Gruppe eine veritable Band, ein Ensemble, das klingt, als spielte es seit Jahrzehnten zusammen.
Peter Rüedi, Die Weltwoche
Hyperion With Higgins fehlt alles, was man geläufig unter retrospektiver Jetztzeit subsumieren könnte. Aus dem Stand entwickelt sich eine Weite, die noch in den kleinsten Wendungen ihren Platz findet. Allein aus Brad Mehldaus vorsichtigem Ertasten der Anfangstakte von Secret Life of the Forbidden City schlägt ein Funke, der den Musiker-Organismus zur treibenden Kraft, zur Schönheit frei von Politur macht. Gerade in Lloyds weiterhin standhaftem wie facettenreichem Ton schält sich eine Ursprünglichkeit heraus, die zudem Charme und Eleganz besitzt.
Guido Fischer, Jazzthetik
Bei Higgins' unerschöpflicher Raffinesse gerät schnell in den Hintergrund, dass Charles Lloyd nicht nur die Musik komponierte, sondern als Saxofonist eine Tiefe und Spiritualität erreicht, die ihresgleichen sucht. ... Musik von erhabener Qualität.
Rolf Thomas, Jazzthing
Culled from the same sessions as last year's The Water Is Wide, this compelling CD is dedicated to the late Billy Higgins, whose subtle, vitalizing drumming all but steals the show from the saxophonist leader, pianist Brad Mehldau, and guitarist John Abercrombie. More assertive than the contemplative Water, Hyperion catches everyone in animated form, updating and enhancing the trademark modal jazz sound that Lloyd has nurtured since the '60s.
Steve Futterman, Entertainment Weekly
One is tempted to hone in exclusively on Billy Higgins's ebullient playing - every rebound, roll and cymbal crash - throughout this satifying companion piece to The Water Is Wide. Standing as the late, great drummer's last recorded work, it's only natural to focus in on his final statements in a long career permeated with smiles and an irrepressibly swinging spirit. But the work here is of such a piece that you can barely separate the parts from the overall fabric. Everything hangs together and flows so organically, from Larry Grenadier's near subliminal bass lines to Brad Mehldau's crystalline piano statements to John Abercrombie's warmly fingerpicked guitar lines, all in the service of Lloyd's resplendent compositions, each a thing of grace and fragile beauty.
Bill Milkowski, Jazz Times
The ageless tenorman Charles Lloyd closes the book on his nearly half-century association with the late Billy Higgins on Hyperion with Higgins, the just released second disc from a lengthy recording session of December 1999. Lloyd gathered most of the ballads from that session for The Water Is Wide, his extraordinary meditation, released last year. by contrast, Hyperion contains both the slow stuff - songs that elicited Higgins' incomparable brush work and crisp cymbal colorations - and the mid to uptempo material that was like candy to the unflagging Higgins, a man who'd driven everything from Ornette Coleman's first L.A. quartet to Pat Metheny's straightahead trio...Lloyd has emerged as one of those musicians who only get better with age. In the 35 years since his album Forest Flower sold a million copies and made him a staple of the burgeoning San Francisco jazz and rock scenes, his tone has darkened just enough to lend impressive weight to his fluttery phrasing and careening melodies.
Neil Tesser, Jazziz
Volume Two of the "Water Is Wide" sessions is also, sadly, one of the last recordings of the great drummer Billy Higgins, who died in May, after a long history of health problems. Higgins and saxophonist Charles Lloyd were friends from teenage years and had a band in Los Angeles in the 1950s whose line-up, at different times, included Don Cherry, Scott La Faro and Bobby Hutcherson, before any of these trailblazers-in-bud had "a name". As Higgins reminisced, in one of his last interviews (with Josef Woodard in Down Beat), "We played a lot, then. We were just kids growing up, trying to learn how to play this music." One of the pleasures of the work for Lloyd, in the last several years, had been the reunion with Higgins. Over the years, Higgins and Lloyd had occasionally played concerts and kept in touch, and Lloyd had dedicated his 1996 recording "Canto" to the drummer. However, the musical relationship intensified with the recording of the critically-acclaimed "Voice In The Night" in 1998 whose buoyancy was in large part attributable to Higgins' joyous beats. Over the next three years Higgins would be a crucial component of Lloyd's line-ups.

"We'd played together since I was 18," Lloyd said, praising the drummer as "a spiritual Master who elevated his instrument to that level where he could hear 'in the moment' and play whatever the music was at that time." That quality had of course been acknowledged by the great jazz masters of the last half-century, including John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, Cecil Taylor, Don Cherry, Dexter Gordon and many others whose music has been driven by Higgins' pulses. As Lloyd put it in an interview once, "Having Mr Higgins behind you makes you jump up and shout, makes you think you can walk on water, makes you want to testify. Billy's got all the moves that you can't see, and of all the drummers, he's the most minimalist. His kit is never overly huge; his bravura is never over the top; he can do it all with the smallest gesture. He makes you sharpen your focus." His acuity and quick-wittedness is evident throughout "Hyperion with Higgins", a recording on which the drummer's contribution is as central as it was on Ornette Coleman's breakthrough albums such as "Change of the Century", or "Free Jazz". Higgins once compared the two bandleaders and concluded that Lloyd and Coleman, saxophonists who effected some sea changes in the history of jazz, were "totally different people looking for the same thing, still looking for that bullseye."

"Hyperion With Higgins" and "The Water Is Wide" were recorded over a week in a Los Angeles studio, partly out of a sentimental desire on Lloyd's part to return the music to its geographical point of origin, and partly for practical reasons; Lloyd wanted Higgins, for instance, to have access to his own drum kit, and the itinerary of Brad Mehldau and Larry Grenadier was so crowded that the recording was finally scheduled around their residency at L.A.'s Largo club.

The band assembled for these special recordings comprised three-fifths of the "Voice In The Night" band and two-thirds of Mehldau's trio, a mix of young lions and old lions with some self-evident connections to Lloyd's past. Abercrombie (featured much more prominently on this new release) has taken over a role analogous to that held by Gabor Szabo in Lloyd's 60s bands. And Mehldau is an obvious link in a chain of inspired pianists in Lloyd groups that has included such exceptional musicians as Keith Jarrett, Michel Petrucciani and Bobo Stenson.

The dominant mood of "Hyperion with Higgins", however, differs from that of its predecessor. It's a more outgoing album. "The idea is like with the old Southern preacher," Lloyd told Down Beat. "You go low and you get high and then you catch fire. This second instalment picks up the tempo..."