Friday, October 22, 2010

"Mirror" by Charles Lloyd

Charles Lloyd, the veteran and journeyman saxophonist, has released a new ECM recording called, "Mirrors." This music is at once sparse, focused, and free. He is accompanied by Eric Harland on drums, Reuben Rogers on acoustic bass, and Jason Moran on piano. This group previously released a stellar live recording, but this is their first studio offering. They understand each other, and it shows.

Lloyd has a signature tone on the horn, both soft and intense. He does not have a big, round, deep tone, but rather projects a kind of airy, soulful array of notes. I hear "the cry" of Coltrane, but Lloyd is own man. The man has been living inside his horn for many decades. He is not afraid of silence, of space, of the aridity for the sake of beauty. This is not rich sound that washes over you, but a contemplative sonic pallet, offered patiently. Some of his repeated runs--on both tenor and soprano--can become a bit cloying, but the overall sound remains cogent.

Mr. Lloyd narrates a kind of Hindu poem--which speaks of "the Atman"--through the final piece. The source is not listed in the liner notes. It may be his own writing or from some other source. His voice is rather muffled, and the philosophy unsound. One wishes he would have stayed within that sound of his saxophone, sans commentary.

This is jazz worth savoring, worth listening to deeply.


  1. I am not really a jazz person. I find your enthusiasm for it contagious. After listening to an excerpt from "Mirror" I found that his phrase "we desire perfection" to be indicative of the drive behind his music and what makes it so alluring. So while his philosophy is Hindi in nature he identifies well the God vacuum in all mankind and you can hear it in his music... searching for definition. I pray he finds the answer.

  2. It is by God's common grace that so much beauty and aesthetic passion can be found in souls outside of Christianity. Jazz itself has much to teach Christians, as Robert Gelinas argues in "Finding the Grove," a book I reviewed at Denver Journal (on the seminary web page).

    A good "starter" album if you do not know much about jazz is Miles Davis, "Kind of Blue." Lloyd's music may seem a bit too abstract or disconnected to the ear untrained in jazz aesthetics. "Kind of Blue" is an uncontroversial jazz standard, but is also more approachable; it can serve as a prelude to other sorts of jazz. It can be quite a journey of artistic discovery.

    Thank you for the comment.